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Zbc arts anb Cutis of tbe IRations 

General Editor : S. H. F. CAPENNY 



Finf preservation of the Lake on tht dress of tk^ MadoMMa, 

Frobahly, tfure/are. Madder Lake. (Property of Sir T. I). 

Gibson Carmichael.) 










A. P. LAURIE, M.A., D.Sc. 






November igio 






From a MS. in the Biblioikeque Royalty reproduced 

from the ^* Ancient Practice o/ Painting;" 

by Mrs Merrifield, 


Cennino Cennini, chapter 96. 
{Mrs Merrifield's translation. ) 


While many valuable and learned treatises are to 
be found both in English and in foreign tongues 
dealing with the materials of the painter's craft in 
past ages, there is no book in the English language 
which covers all the ground and brings together 
the latest results of inquiry and research. 

The nearest approach to a book of this kind was 
Eastlake's Materials for a History of Oil Paint- 
ing, which has long been out of print, and is in 
many ways now out of date; while for those who 
wish to study a particular method, nothing can sur- 
pass Mrs Herringham's recent translation of Cen- 
nino Cennini, but she confines herself to one aspect 
of the subject. 

My aim, therefore, is to bring together within 
a reasonable compass the information scattered in 
many places, along with the results of various analy- 
ses and experiments carried out by myself, with the 
view of throwing further light on the more difficult 



and as yet unsolved problems for the artist and the 
connoisseur ; and to give such an account as may 
prove of interest to the general, though cultured, 
reader, with sufificiently detailed and practical in- 
formation to enable a painter of pictures to repeat 
such methods as are accurately known, and with 
such exact experimental information as may open 
the road to further researches. 

The interests of architects and of those engaged 
in the practical crafts, such as house painting and 
decorating, have also been considered, and some 
of the old processes which I have described, such as 
the use of marble-dust plaster, are worthy of their 
serious study; while I believe that if they would 
collect the traditions still existing in the workshops, 
they could solve manyof the problems which trouble 
the painter of pictures to-day. 

At the same time I have tried by appropriate 
description and quotation to reproduce the atmo- 
sphere, where possible, in which these ancient works 
were carried out. 

It is to be hoped that something of interest will 
be found in the book for many different kinds of 
readers, and that they will remember that this is 
the first attempt in this country to bring together 
within reasonable compass the varied information 


on a subject which is, in more than one aspect, of 
absorbing interest. 

Of the translations quoted in the book, those from 
Cennino Cennini have either been taken direct from 
Mrs Herringham's translation, or from Mrs Merri- 
field's, corrected by reference to Mrs Herringham; 
and I must thank Mrs Herringham and Messrs 
Allen, her publishers, for their permission to quote 
so extensively. The translations of Theophilus are 
taken from Hendrie's edition, with the exception of 
the translation of the beautiful opening chapter of 
the third book, which I have myself ventured to 
render into English. 

Thanks are due to Miss R. F. Forbes for her 
translations of Pliny, Vitruvius, and de Mayerne : 
and to Messrs Dent, the publishers of the tech- 
nical part of Vasari's Lives of the Painters, trans- 
lated by Miss Maclehose, and edited by Professor 
Baldwin Brown; and to Messrs Macmillan, pub- 
lishers of the Pre-Rai>haelite Brotherhood, by the 
late Holman Hunt, for permission to quote from 
these books. I am also much indebted to Professor 
Baldwin Brown for help and assistance in many 
ways; to Sir T. D. Gibson-Carmichael for permis- 
sion to reproduce the picture of a Madonna and 
Child belonging to him; to the Abbd Henri Breuil 



for permission to copy his drawings of the palaeo- 
lithic fresco at Altamira; and to Messrs Bruck- 
mann for permission to photograph their repro- 
duction of an Etruscan fresco ; and to the various 
authorities to reproduce pictures in our public in- 

In conclusion, I have a suggestion to make to 
those who are engaged in studying the history of 
art. The more I investigate the facts about the 
Van Eyck pictures, the more I am disposed to 
think that the usual view that the Van Eycks were 
the originators of a new technical method is wrong, 
and that, on the contrary, they and their immediate 
followers represent the culmination of a traditional 
Northern technique involving the use of some pre- 
paration of varnish, just as we may regard Fra 
Lippi and Botticelli as representing the culmina- 
tion of the tempera technique in Italy. 


August 1 910. 
















OLD MASTERS . . . -253 





VARNISHES . . . . i 279 



BIBLIOGRAPHY ...... 386 

INDEX 435 



15th Century Tempera Picture . Frontispiece 

Palaeolithic Drawing, Altamira 2 

Etruscan Fresco. Tomba delle Leonesse, Cometo- 

Tarquinia ........ 14 

Reproduction from portion of Egyptian Book of the 

Dead ........ 20 

Photograph of Portrait from Hawara . 52 

Painting in Melted Wax . . ... 56 

Picture painted in Melted Wax . . . . .62 

Micro-photograph of portion of Roman Fresco . . 95 

" Rape of Helen," by Benozzo Gozzoli . . -213 

From a " Book of Hours " 250 

Unfinished Picture by Jan Van Eyck . . 343 

I Sth Century German "Oil" Painting .... 360 

Micro-Photographs of Section and Surface of Cracked 

Picture 381 


Materials of the Painter's Craft 



The use of pigments for ornamental purposes is 
probably one of the earliest forms of decorative art, 
as many of the materials were available to the artist 
without any special preparation. For a white pig- 
ment he could make use of chalk or other white 
earths, while charcoal supplied him with a black 
where a native black chalk was not known, and red 
and yellow ochres could be found abundantly in 
many places, and terre verte or green ochre was also 
available. Moreover, many of these pigments, from 
their soft and clay-like consistency, required no 
special preparation, and if merely smeared on the 
walls of a cave would adhere to the surface for a 
long time ; so that the primitive painter would have 
to his hand many of the necessary materials. 


Such painted decorations, however, would be far 
from durable, and therefore, while carvings in stone 
and works in precious metals remain to us, the 
remnants of such early efforts at painting must in 
most cases have perished. But not in all cases, as 
has been proved, for instance, by the discovery of 
frescoes drawn by palaeolithic man in the caverns of 
Altamira in Spain. 

These drawings have been executed with bold- 
ness and skill in black, and in red and yellow ochres, 
and represent with great perfection many animals 
practically extinct in Europe, such for instance as 
the bison ; so that an artist of high technical skill, 
living in palaeolithic times, has left us a record of 
the animals with which he was familiar in the sur- 
rounding forests. 

These drawings have been most beautifully re- 
produced by the Abbd Henri Breuil and published 
by the Prince of Monaco, and with the kind per- 
mission of the Abb^ one is copied here. But such 
traces of our primeval ancestors' skill in drawing 
are rare, and it is necessary in searching for later 
examples to come to the times just before the dawn 
of the historic period in Europe and in Egypt. 

In Europe we have the Etruscan frescoes, many 
of which are of great beauty, and we have also the 



frescoes discovered in the palace of Knossos in 
Crete. The excavation of this wonderful palace has 
revealed the existence of a high civilisation of which 
we have no indication in the known history of 
Greece, the later palace dating probably somewhere 
about 1500 B.C. 

The wall-paintings in this palace have several 
peculiarities. The plaster is in three layers ; the 
lower layer, of coarse rubble, lime and clay, is some 
one and a half inches in thickness ; above this the 
fine plaster was laid in coats, the first about half-an- 
inch and the second a quarter-inch in thickness. 

This fineplaster consisted apparently of limewith- 
out any intermixture of sand or marble dust, though 
possibly it had been allowed to remain slaked for a 
long time before use. 

Upon this surface the pigments have been laid 
without any binding material, but they are firmly 
adhering, and must therefore have been painted on 
the wet lime surface. 

The pigments used are black chalk, yellow and 
red ochres, lime for white, and for blue the Egyptian 
blue frit, of which we shall have to speak later. It 
is thus highly probable that commercial relations 
existed between Crete and Egypt when this palace 
was decorated, about B.C. 1500, 



To pass from Europe to Egypt, we have to go 
to much earlier dates to find the remains of a pre- 
historic civilisation due to an earlier race. Flinders 
Petrie puts the date of the prehistoric period in 
Egypt at from 8000 to 5800 B.C. Not only are 
tomb frescoes of this prehistoric period known, but 
prehistoric slate palettes and mullers have also been 
found which were used for rubbing down pigments. 
Egyptologists have decided that these slate palettes 
were used for preparing pigments for decorating the 
face ; but to whatever purposes the pigments were 
applied, they evidently required to be rubbed down 
with some convenient medium, and on one of the 
palettes are to be seen traces of the pigment which 
had been ground upon it. 

In addition to these natural earths which would 
form the first pigments used by the painter, the dis- 
covery of red veins of cinnabar and blue veins of 
copper carbonate would add to the materials at the 
command of the artist. It would be long, however, 
before these natural pigments were increased by 
the addition of those from artificial sources, and it 
would only be as other arts developed that the ar- 
tist would get the advantage of various chemical 
and metallurgical discoveries. For instance, the 
development of the potter's art and the discovery 



of various coloured glazes would naturally result in 
the attempt to use such glazes ground fine as pig- 
ments. An interesting example of a development 
of this kind is to be found in Egypt. 

The use of glazed quartz, and glazed vessels hav- 
ing a porous siliceous body, was known in Egypt 
in prehistoric times, and the prevailing colour of the 
glaze was blue to green, owing to the addition of 
copper compounds. 

Later on we find the famous Egyptian blue used 
in painting. This blue on analysis proves to be 
merely a richly coloured copper glaze ground to a 
fine powder, the artist in pigments thus benefiting 
by the inventions of the craftsman in glazing. 

Discoveries in connection with mining and metal- 
lurgy would also result in adding fresh pigments to 
the artist's colour-box. The cinnabar, for instance, 
and the blue copper ores already referred to might 
come before the painter's notice, owing to the treat- 
ment of these substances for the production of cop- 
per and quicksilver, while the discovery of how to 
prepare lead from its ore was necessary before red 
lead could be manufactured, and the additional dis- 
covery of the results of the fermentation of the grape 
and the production of vinegar before white lead and 
verdigris could be added to the list. The painter 



also owes much to the art of the dyer. The dis- 
covery that certain herbs could be used to dye tex- 
tile fabrics, and that certain agents could be used as 
mordants to fix these dyes, would naturally lead to 
the attempt to fix the dyes upon some white chalky 
ground and so utilise them for painting; and we con- 
sequently find that the most famous dye of classical 
times, the murex, or royal purple, was also used to 
prepare a pigment for the artist. It is impossible 
to say which of these many discoveries may have 
preceded the other, and whether the attempt to 
make a pigment from the vegetal dye preceded 
the attempt to use it for dyeing the textile fabric ; 
but, at any rate, the artist has throughout been able 
greatly to increase the number of pigments at his 
command as the sister arts have developed, while 
at the present day the discoveries of modern chem- 
istry have added many valuable, and also many 
treacherous, pigments to the artist's paint-box. It 
is, therefore, not surprising to find in the earliest his- 
toric times that complex decorative schemes could 
be carried out with a great variety of colour. The 
necessity of fixing the pigment to the surface would 
also naturally lead to the investigation of possible 
mediums which could be mixed with the pigment 
and used to attach it. In Egypt the acacia supplies 



gumarabic, which only needs to be dissolved in water 
to form a convenient medium. Egg has also formed 
an obvious and useful medium from very early times, 
and the discovery of how to prepare glue, while of 
importance to the carpenter, was also of importance 
to the artist. The natural semi-liquid balsams or 
resins obtained from trees, beeswax, and the tar pre- 
pared for ships all obviously lend themselves to being 
mixed with pigmentsand applied to various surfaces. 
The most useful medium of all, however, which is 
the basis of most modern painting, the v£ getal o ils 
that have the property of hardening when exposed 
to the air, seem to have been utilised comparatively 
late, and were not at the command of the artist 
at the beginning of things. It is evident, therefore, 
that in looking into the history of the painter's ma- 
terials we are led to consider some of the sister 
arts and crafts ; and while it is impossible to de- 
velop fully these interesting sides of the subject in 
a book of this length, some passing references will 
be made. 

The subject may well, however, be regarded in 
another aspect ; for, while leading on the one hand 
to a consideration of such sister arts as the enamel- 
ling of earthenware, the dyeing of fabrics, and metal- 
lurgical processes, it is also connected on the other 



hand very closely with the aesthetic development of 
painting. It is not the purpose of this book to enter 
into so difficult a subject; but in order thoroughly to 
understand the artistic development of any period, 
we should be familiar with the pigments and with the 
mediums actually in the possession of the artist. 
Each medium leads inevitably to certain modes of 
expression — modes of expression which are limited 
in some directions, and which can be extended in 
others, and so, as the art progresses, the artist is in- 
evitably guided along certain channels. To give an 
instance, the fifteenth century doubtless saw the final 
and most perfect product which was possible with 
the tempera medium, a product distinctly different 
from what is possible with oil, and again different 
from what can be done with a water medium of the 
nature of gum. If, then, we compare on the one 
hand the finest work of the Italian tempera painters 
of the fifteenth century with a modern water-colour 
and a modern oil-painting by a great master, we 
shall realise how, in each case, the medium used has 
inevitably led to certain definite forms of expression 
by the artist. It may therefore well be that a medium 
different from that incommonuse may long be known 
and yet not be utilised because the artist is already 
satisfied with the materials which he has been trained 


to use and does not feel drawn to search for a new 
mode of expression. To give an obvious example, 
the use of oil for painting was known at least as early 
as the time of Theophilus, and, judging by the 
accounts at Ely and at Westminster, oil must have 
been used very early in connection with the decora- 
tive painting in the English cathedrals. Yet it was 
long before thepossibilities of this new medium were 
realised by the artist. It is certainlyopen to question 
whether even the Van Eycks, though usually re- 
garded as the inventors of oil painting, can be con- 
sidered as really having painted in oil. It seems 
more probable that their pictures were begun in 
tempera and glazed with a medium containing some 
oil, and can thereforehardly be classed as oil paintings. 
It is also probable that they were influenced in de- 
parting from the egg medium by two considerations. 
In the first place, a damper climate made tempera 
pictures much more perishable than in Italy, even 
if protected by varnish ; and, in the second place, the 
desire to get transparent, brilliant, glazing colours 
would lead to the attempt to produce a medium of 
the nature of oil or varnish. The magnificent greens, 
for instance, which are to be found in Van Eyck, 
and some of those that followed after him, are not 
seen in the tempera pictures. It is therefore highly 



probable that the new line of development lay along 
the direction of, in the first place, varnishing the 
tempera picture, and then discovering the brilliant 
effects to be obtained by grinding the more trans- 
parent pigments in the varnish, or, in certain cases, 
actually dissolving them in the hot varnish, and lay- 
ing them over the solid tempera painting beneath, 
thus combining the permanent water-protecting 
surface of the varnish with the new and brilliant 
effects to be obtained from transparent pigments 
ground in the varnish medium. It is not till some 
time after that oil practically pure, or mixed with a 
little varnish, is freely used by the artist, and that 
its great possibilities of expression lead to the com- 
plete disappearance of the tempera medium. 

It will be seen, then, from these few remarks that 
while the subject of the materials used by the painter 
may seem, at first sight, to be one of limited interest, 
yet it is closely connected on the one hand with the 
development of all the sister crafts, and on the other 
hand with the aesthetic expression which the painter 
has been able to obtain at various times in the history 
of the art. There is also a third point of view from 
which the subject may be considered, namely, as 
throwing light upon the conditions of civilisation 
existing at various periods. It may seem strange 



at first to go to a collection of receipts and directions 
for painting to get fresh light on the intimate lives 
of former generations, but the student seems to get 
more closely into touch with the lives of the people 
when engaged in studying a collection of receipts 
obtained from a painter's manuscript, than when 
reading of great historical events. Wars and political 
movements have always a certain similarity, and 
differ little from age to age except in the ingenuity 
of the weapons used for carrying out the purposes 
of the warrior ; but in the little details which are to 
be found in the receipts for preparing a pigment or 
purifying an oil, we seem to get an insight into the 
whole life of the artist, and get closely into touch, 
not only with the domestic conditions and the de- 
velopment of the crafts, but even with his outlook 
upon the world. The trite moral reflections scattered 
throughout Pliny's Natural History, the deep and 
childlike piety of Cennino Cennini, and the reckless 
brutality of outlook combined with the sincerest 
loyalty to his craft of Benvenuto Cellini, are all of 
fascinating interest to the student of human char- 
acter as it is modified by environment at each stage 
of the world's history. The mere statement, in a re- 
ceiptobtainedfrom some monkish manuscriptforthe 
preparation of a pigment, that the decoction is to be 



allowed to boil while ten paternosters are recited, 
throws a vivid light upon the lives of the monks 
and their whole attitude towards the crafts on the 
one hand and towards religion on the other. In 
fact, on every hand, as we study that apparently 
dry and mechanical side of the painter's art, we 
shall find fresh suggestions throwing light on many 
things of the greatest interest. 

It is, of course, impossible in a little book of this 
length to treat the subject exhaustively. Many vol- 
umes would be required to discuss fully the various 
processes used at different times, and to bring be- 
fore the reader all the arguments for and against a 
given conclusion. At the end, in spite of the large 
amount of material that lies to hand, many of the 
most interesting problems have not been solved, and 
the best that can be done is to point to probabilities. 
To take an instance, the durability of many of the 
early " oil " pictures has always been a puzzle to the 
modern artist. Theperfect freshness of a Van Eyck, 
as compared with the desperate condition of many 
a picture painted only a few years ago, is very diffi- 
cult to understand, and at the end of all the light that 
modern science can throw upon the question we have 
to admit that the secret of Van Eyck has perished 
with him, and that he had a mastery of certain techni- 



cal processes which has resulted in a durability of 
workmanship which to-day we cannot imitate. The 
secretof this profound technical knowledge lies inthe 
fact that the artist of earlier times was also a crafts- 
man. He built up his picture from the beginning ; 
he knew intimately how to prepare his panel, how to 
make many of his pigments, how to purify them, 
grind them, and prepare his mediums and varnishes. 
During his apprenticeship he was trained in these 
various processes just as amoderncarpenterorblack- 
smith is trained in every detail of his craft ; it was his 
business while an apprentice to prepare all these 
things for his master, and in that way a tradition was 
built up in which what was faulty was rejected and 
only what was reliable retained. Moreover, it was 
the object of the early painter to produce a good and 
durable job. He was not merely thinking of the 
aesthetic result of his labours. H e was trying to turn 
out a good piece of workmanship that would stand 
the test of time, and to this end many of his opera- 
tions were directed. Unfortunately, he was content 
to teach his apprentices verbally, and it is only here 
and there that the artist himself has left a record 
of the processes that he used, while many of the 
existing manuscripts contain bundles of receipts 
which have accumulated through the ages and which 



have been thrown together by the compiler without 
any care as to which were of practical value and 
which were useless, so that in one sense we are be- 
wildered by the amount of material, the difficulty 
being to select from among it what is really good 
from what is bad. The modern artist is merely think- 
ing of the aesthetic result ; he expects all these base 
mechanical operations to be performed for him by 
the manufacturers of canvas and oil, varnishes and 
pigments ; and the result of this divorce between the 
humbler and the higher duties of the artist has been 
disastrous to the permanency of his work. If we wish 
to find any of the traditions of the medieval studio 
we need not look for them in the Latin Quarter or in 
Chelsea. They are to be found more often in the 
workshops of to-day. The house-painter and the 
coach-painter, the frame-maker and gilder, are the 
people among whom some of those old traditions still 
linger, and where a careful inquiry would probably 
result in some very striking and interesting discov- 
eries. The whole subject, therefore, is surrounded 
by much doubt and difficulty, and it is impossible in 
a short book to discuss fully all the arguments for 
and against a given conclusion ; and many parts 
must be left undealt with, while those are selected 
which seem of most interest and of the greatest im- 



portance. It may also be necessary occasionally to 
be too dogmatic and to make an assertion which 
some other writer might be disposed to criticise. At 
the best, therefore, only an attempt can be made to 
place the main facts before the reader, and to explain 
to him as fully as possible the conclusions which are 
most probably correct. 



It is not our province here to discuss Egyptian art, 
but rather to confine ourselves to the materials used 
for painting purposes. But in order to understand 
those materials we must know something of the con- 
ditions of life in Egypt. 

The delta of the Nile is surrounded by deserts on 
two sides, and for a long period in Egyptian history 
a region of extensive swamps lay between the cul- 
tivated, civilised regions of Egypt and the sea, so 
that an isolated civilisation grew up, which only by 
degrees began to draw materials from the outside. 

Within the country itself wood was always scarce 
and the flora very limited in variety, while the sur- 
rounding deserts were practically sterile. There 
were, consequently, no trees, as we shall find, in the 
near neighbourhood that would yield resins suitable 
for varnishes. One tree, however, grew freely, the 



acacia, and grows freely to-day ; and consequently, 
as has been already pointed out, gum arabic could 
be had in abundance. The papyrus reed, which is no 
longer to be found in Egypt, grew plentifully in the 
swamps of the Lower Nile, and, while serving many 
purposes, also supplied, as we shall find, the material 
for paper. 

Of natural pigments we find from the earliest re- 
mains that the ochres were used, though I am not 
aware that the source of supply has been identified. 
Such ochre deposits are, however, very widely dis- 
tributed, and may well exist in some of the surround- 
ing sandstone and limestone formations. For the 
copper ores which were the basis of their blue and 
green glazes and blue and green pigments they had 
to go further afield to the mountains on the west 
side of the Sinaitic peninsula in the Wadi Nasb 
and the Wadi Maghara, while the gold for gold leaf 
came from the gold mines in Nubia. 

Commercial relationships were comparatively ear- 
ly opened up with Syria and with Arabia, from which 
various products might beobtained, and the analysis 
of the pigments found in the palace of Knossos goes 
far to prove commercial relations with Europe as 
early as 1 500 B.C., and therefore long before the date 
at which theGreek civilisation which we know comes 

17 2 


from the region of myth into that of history. We 
must therefore expect to find in later times the means 
of obtaining from various sources any materials like- 
ly to be of use in painting. 

The early production oflinen in Egypt shows that 
the flax plant must have been known and cultivated 
from the earliest times, but there is no trace of know- 
ledge of how to extract from the seed the linseed 
oil, or of any knowledge how to utilise its drying 
properties as a varnish or painting medium. It 
must be remembered in this connection that the ex- 
traction of oil from the olive or the walnut is com- 
paratively easy, and that the linseed does not readi- 
ly yield its oil to treatment. When in the eleventh 
century processes for its extraction are described, 
they are the same as those used at the present day: 
crushing, heating, and then squeezing in heavy 
presses while still hot. 

The Egyptians very early in their history devel- 
oped great skill in glazing, and this has already 
been referred to. This glazing was not done on 
ordinary earthenware, but either on quartz or stone, 
or on a specially prepared siliceous body. For 
further information the reader isreferred to Arts and 
Crafts of Ancient Egypt, by Flinders Petrie. 

The connection between the pigments used by the 


artist in painting and those used for glazing ware is 
fairly close, but is apt to lead to misunderstanding 
if not clearly grasped. It is evident in the first place 
that pigments which will stand a high temperature 
inthefurnace are availablefor the glazing of pottery. 
Consequently we find the pigments which owe their 
colour to iron, like the red ochre and haematite, 
available for the potter; but on the other hand yellow 
ochre is useless, as it is on heating converted into 
red ochre, and he must therefore obtain his yellow 
by some other means. Another case in point is the 
cobalt blue, cobalt being available as a source of 
colour both to the potter and the painter, though 
apparently the use by the potter of this pigment is 
very old and by the painter comparatively recent. 
There are also certain substances which, when 
combined and fused into a glass, develop in the heat 
of the furnace a colour which they do not naturally 
possess, and one, therefore, not found on the artist's 

In conclusion, the coloured glass or glaze of the 
potter may be prepared by itself for useasa pigment, 
as in the case of the Egyptian copper blue, tobeshort- 
ly more fully discussed. 

The art of dyeing was evidently very early under- 
stood, though they seem to havepreferred to bleach 



their beautifully fine linen and wear it white ; and 
they must thereforehavecultivated or obtained from 
elsewhere the necessary plants. 

In the introductory chapter I have discussed 
briefly the way in which the artist's list of pigments 
gradually grows, and incidentally I have taken one 
or two examples from the facts known as to the 
pigments used in Egypt. 

We have now to consider more particularly the 
pigments and vehicles in use in that country. In or- 
der, however, to understand thoroughly the process- 
es which we shall find in use, we must remember the 
conditions resulting from the Egyptian climate. 
The dry, warm air usually prevailing made it an 
easy matter for the artist to obtain durable results. 
He had not to fear the destructive effects of mois- 
ture upon his work. Moreover, much of his work 
was permanently sealed up in the tomb, and has 
naturally remained practically uninjured by time. 
There was no necessity, therefore, to invent an oil 
medium or to use a varnish, though varnishes were 
used at one period, or to make use of beeswax, al- 
though we shall find beeswax in use at any rate in 
Roman times, and possibly earlier. 

Three kinds of painting were common : the paint- 
ingof wall surfaces, the painting of thecoffins enclos- 


Reproduction from portion of Egyptian 

Book of the Dead. (Papyrus of Aid 

British Museum.) 


ing the embalmed bodies of the dead, and illuminat- 
ing with pictures the text of papyrus manuscripts. 
In all three cases the painting was of a similar 
character, and decorative in its object, and, while re- 
quiring accurate drawing of outline, not involving 
much subtlety in the handling of the pigment and 
the medium. 

The painting of the wall surfaces was done either 
directly on the smooth stone or on a layer of plaster 
laid on to cover up irregularities in the stone sur- 
face ; and the plaster itself seems to have been a mix- 
ture of lime with plaster of Paris. Not only were the 
walls of the tombs thus made smooth, but brick build- 
ingswere covered with a thin coat of plaster, and even 
the statues were similarly treated as a basis for sub- 
sequent painting. 

On this surface fairly solid painting was execut- 
ed with some convenient medium. One useful me- 
dium was easily obtained in Egypt, namely, gum ar- 
able, which exudes from the acacia, a tree which grows 
freely in Egypt. To use this it was merely necessary 
to dissolve it in water. 

The preparation of glue was also early known, and 
glue was evidently used largely as a painting 

It is also quite probable that egg, both the white 



and the yolk, would also be used. None of these me- 
diums will, of course, withstand the attacks of water; 
and if any Egyptian wall-paintings will, as is stated 
by Herr Berger, withstand the action of water, then 
some other medium than these must have been used 
on some occasions. Probably wax, or a mixture of 
wax and resin, would be used in such cases. There 
would be no difficulty in applying melted wax to wall 
surfaces in so warm a climate, though its durability 
might certainly be open to question. 

In many of the older wall-paintings in situ, and 
still more in the case of those which have been re- 
moved to the museums, it is no longer possible to 
j udge of the original condition of the medium, as they 
have too often been treated in various ways. In 
some genuine samples from a freshly opened tomb of 
theXIXth dynasty which I obtained from Professor 
Baldwin Brown, the pigment was quite easily re- 
moved with a wet finger, and on analysis proved to 
be attached by means of gum.-^ 

Something has already been said about Egyptian 
pigments, but they must now be considered in more 
detail. The paintings show the use of red and yellow 

1 An oil-like residue was also present to the amount of about loper 
cent, of the gum, 2 mgm. combined with the lime. This is interesting 
because of Herr Berger's theories. 



ochres, a dull green, occasionally a bright green, and 
a bright and beautiful blue. This blue is the Egyp- 
tian blue already referred to, but now requiring to 
be considered in some detail. As has already been 
explained, this blue is a copper glaze, glass, or frit, 
and probably originated in the glazing of pottery and 
the discovery that such a glaze pounded down results 
in a blue pigment. Vitruvius tells us that the blue 
is made by fusing together sand, soda, and copper, 
and that it was originally made in Alexandria, and 
is now (the time of Augustus) manufactured in Pu- 
teoli. The references in Pliny are somewhatobscure, 
and he seems to be referring to the same pigment 
under different names. Theophrastus also some- 
what obscurely seems to refer to it under the name 
of an artificial cyanos. Those references to " cyanos" 
I shall have to mention more fully presently. The 
blue is easily identified on a fragment of fresco, ap- 
pearing under a moderate power of the microscope 
as consisting of brilliant blue, transparent, glassy 
fragments, and yielding under the blowpipe the usual 
tests for copper. The analysis of samples reveals 
usually the presence of some lime and alumina, be- 
sides silica, soda, and copper. Professor Russell 
has succeeded in preparing not only a beautiful blue 
of this kind, but also a green. 



A fragment of painting on stone in the Museum 
at Edinburgh, of the Xlth dynasty (3500 B.C.), where 
strips of red ochre and the copper frit are alternate- 
ly laid on, shows how early this blue was known, the 
invention, according to Theophrastus, of an Egyp- 
tian king. 

It was used not only in Egypt, but also in Rome 
in imperial times, as the universal blue for fresco- 
paintings. Its revival for fresco-painting might well 
be considered, both because of its beauty and its 

It is also a curious and interesting fact that, al- 
though this pigment was no doubt suggested by the 
blue glaze, due to copper, there is no trace of a pig- 
ment prepared from cobalt, though cobalt has been 
detected in certain blue Egyptian glazes. The greens 
already referred to seem to be usually mixtures of 
this blue with a yellow pigment, such as yellow 
ochre, or, according to the analysis of John, with a 
yellow vegetal lake. 

In the introductory chapter I explained how pig- 
ments were probably suggested by the art of dyeing, 
such pigments, made by staining and fixing with a 
mordant on a white base a vegetal or animal dye, 
being known to artists as lakes. The lakes to which 
artists of to-day are accustomed, such as madder lake 



and crimson lake, are usually made by fixing the dye 
on a translucent or almost transparent base such as 
alumina ; but the lakes of Egypt and Rome were 
usually fixed on chalk or gypsum, and formed there- 
fore opaque pigments. It will readily be understood 
that it is not enough to mix the dye with the chalk 
or gypsum, the staining colour readily washing out. 
The dye must be fixed on the gypsum just as it 
must be fixed on the cloth, by means of a fixing 
agent or mordant. Such a yellow vegetal lake is 
described by the chemist John as having been found 
on an Egyptian fragment. 

But in addition to green prepared in this way, it 
is quite possible that a green copper frit was also 
used ; and in the case of one fragment of a piece of 
painting on a coffin I once reported on for the late 
Professor Middleton, a green copper frit was pre- 
sent. Among the reds, red ochre has already been 
referred to ; but in addition Professor Petrie found 
a pink-coloured pigment, which on examination by 
Professor Russell was found to owe its colour to 

The use of the root of the madder plant for dye- 
ing is very old, and it is clearly described by classi- 
cal writers, and is also mentioned as yielding a pig- 
ment. The preparation, however, of a madder lake 



is by no means a simple matter, and there is very 
little reference to madder lakes in medieval times. 
The discovery of an actual Egyptian madder lake 
was therefore all the more interesting. This lake 
was of course of the opaque variety, as already ex- 
plained, and prepared on a gypsum base. Professor 
Russell succeeded in reproducing it by boiling to- 
gether madder root, gypsum, and a little lime, an 
entirely novel receipt to the modern colour maker. 

These pigments, along with charcoal for black 
and possibly orpiment, seem to be the principal pig- 
ments used in purely Egyptian times. 

The method of painting on walls has already been 
considered, though evidently furtherlightis required 
on the medium used for this purpose; and it remains 
to consider next the painting on coffins. The coffin 
might be made of wood, or of strips of linen pasted 
together, or in later times of strips of papyrus. 

Before being painted on, the surface was covered 
with a thin coat of gesso, consisting of chalk mixed 
with glue. I n the case of one fragment I have ex- 
amined special means were adopted to attach the 
gesso firmly to the wood below. This was a matter 
to which, as we shall find later, much importance 
was attached by the Italian painters of the fifteenth 
century. In order, then, to attach the gesso, the sur- 



face of the wood had been torn or scraped up and 
then laid over with a mixture of sand and glue 
through which the fibres of the wood still attached 
were mixed, and on this bed of sand the fine gesso 
was spread. 

The other fragment I examined, of about the 
XlXth dynasty, may be described more fully. 

Overthe wood was laid a white gesso, and this had 
beenpainted with black, and with an apparentlysten- 
cilled pattern of yellow ochre. Over the wholeof this 
had been laid a reddish-coloured varnish, which was 
in places in excellent condition. On treating with 
alcohol the varnish at once dissolved, leaving the 
painting underneath unaffected. The black pigment 
was found to be powdered charcoal ; and the yellow, 
a yellow ochre containing white coarse fragments 
apparently of quartz. It had therefore not been 
treated according to the modern method of prepara- 
tion, that is, of grinding the crude och re from the mine 
with water, mixing it with a large volume of water 
in a vat, letting the coarse particles settle, and then 
draining off into another vat, in which the fine par- 
ticles for use as a pigment are collected. The gesso 
was composed of chalk. 

On boiling the painted surface and gesso with 
water after removal of the varnish, it was completely 



disintegrated, so that there was no indication of a 
medium like oil or wax, insoluble in water ; and in 
evaporating down the water solution after filtration, 
a residue of translucent brown plates was left. The 
brown plates were of animal origin, and, while not 
giving all the reactions of glue, are apparently glue 
which had become slightly modified by time. 
Whether any other medium besides glue had been 
used to lay the pigment on the gesso surface it would 
be impossible to say. The gesso itself was certainly 
composed of chalk and glue. 

The use of varnish described above is, I believe, 
limited to a period of about the XlXth and XXth 
dynasties (1300 B.C.), appearing about that time and 
then being given up again in later times. 

The presence of the varnish gives rise to some 
very interesting questions, which in order to explain 
will necessitate our considering shortly how var- 
nishes are prepared. 

In the first place, the bases of all varnishes are 
various resins known to commerce. Some of these 
resins are obtained from living trees; others are 
found by digging or mining, and are the resins of the 
trees of old forests. Such fossil resins are amber, the 
harder copals from Africa, and Kauri resin, now ex- 
ported from NewZealand. The resins of living trees 



are familiar to all, and may be seen exuding from 
the bark of a pine tree. These resins exude from the 
trees in a treacly condition, the hard solid resin be- 
ing dissolved in the volatile oils of turpentine. If, 
for instance, a larch is tapped, the semi-liquid resin 
exudes, and is known as "Venice turpentine." If this 
semi-liquid resin is placed in a still and heated, spirit 
of turpentine passes off and can be collected from 
the worm of the still, and the solid resin, the com- 
mon rosin of the shops, is left behind. Although 
all the resins, then, must originally leave the tree in 
a semi-liquid form, they come into the market usu- 
ally in a solid form, having lost their spirits of tur- 
pentine or similar essential oils. 

Suchresins are commonrosin,fromcertain species 
of pine trees ; mastic, from the Pistacia lentiscus, 
found in Syria ; and sandarac, from the Callitris 
quadrivalvis, found on the Mediterranean coast of 
Africa ; and many others. 

In order to prepare a varnish from the resin, two 
ways may be followed. Either the resin is dissolved 
by heat in a volatile medium, like alcohol (spirits of 
wine), turpentine, or petroleum, or it is dissolved in 
a drying oil like linseed oil. If dissolved in a volatile 
medium, it is called a spirit varnish, and on painting 
over a surface the spirit evaporates and leaves a solid 



glassy layer of the resin behind; or if dissolved in lin- 
seed oil, it is known as an oil varnish. Linseed oil has 
the property of absorbing oxygen from the air and 
becoming converted into a transparent elastic solid. 
This process is usually called by the misleading name 
of drying. An oil varnish, then, results when dry in 
a film or layer composed of the resin and the linseed 
dry oil intimately combined. Such a varnish is 
tougher, more elastic, and less easily injured mecha- 
nically than a spirit varnish. 

An apology is perhaps due for this somewhat long 
digression on the nature of varnishes, but the subject 
will constantly be coming before us again, and, for 
those who are not familiar with it, must sooner or 
later be described. 

In conclusion, a semi-liquid resin, or balsam, as it 
is sometimes called, can be used directly as a var- 
nish as it comes from the tree, on being warmed. A 
solid resin, if fused by heat, cannot be spread on a 
surface properly, and at once cracks on cooling. It 
must therefore be dissolved in a suitable medium as 
already described, or mixed with a little beeswax. 

The varnish on the coffin already mentioned had 
not the properties we associate with an oil varnish, 
and was too transparent to have been mixed with 
beeswax. As such volatile mediums as alcohol, tur- 



pentine, and petroleum were almost certainly un- 
known in ancient Egypt, we are driven to conclude 
that this varnish was a natural semi-liquid resin as 
obtained from the tree, like our Venice turpentine or 
Canada balsam, probably laid on after warming. 
Egypt does not, and apparently did not, possess any 
resin-producing trees, and therefore the interesting 
question is, from where was it obtained ? In its pro- 
perties it agrees neither with pine resin, which could 
have been obtained from Europe or Syria, nor with 
mastic, which could have been obtained from Syria 
or Africa, nor with sandarac, which could have been 
obtained from Africa. On the whole, it is most like 
pine resin in its properties, which may have become 
altered through time, and therefore was probably 
obtained from Syria or Europe. The reddish colour 
is very likely due to the introduction of a red like 
dragon's-blood. It is evident that a further inquiry 
into the nature of this varnish may throw an interest- 
ing lighton the commercial dealings of the Egyptians 
about the XlXth dynasty. 

There only remains in conclusion to consider the 
paintings on papyrus. These paintings call for no 
special remark, in addition to what has already been 
said, but the papyrus itself requires a word or two 
of description. 



The papyrus reed from which it was prepared 
used to grow freely in Egypt, but is now extinct. 
It grows twelve to twenty feet high and three inches 
in diameter. It is full of pith. This pith was cut in 
thin slices, and the slices laid side by side and beaten 
with a mallet on a slightly sloping slab so as to allow 
the sap to drain off. Then they were brushed over 
with flour paste, and a fresh set of slices laid on at 
right angles to the first lot and beaten with a mallet 
as before. For the best papyrus this process was 
repeated more than once. The finished papyrus is a 
beautiful, luminous brown, and takes pigments most 
excellently, and is therefore very suitable for fine 
decorative treatment. 

The wax portraits on panel of the second century 
discovered by Flinders Petrie at Hawara will be 
considered later in connection with classical modes 
of painting. The Egyptians used the Carthamus 
tinctorius (KviJKOi, Lat. emeus or cnecus) for a dye, 
and probably prepared from this the yellow lake.- 
The seeds yield an oil which they prepared, and 
which is a "drying" oil, but there is no evidence 
that they understood how to' utilise its "drying" 


methods of painting in classical times 


As we have seen in the former chapter, the Egyptian 
painter confined himself to the decorative treatment 
of wall surfaces and the gesso-prepared surfaces 
of coffins made of wood or papier-mi.ch4 and the 
adornment of papyrus manuscripts. The designs'" 
thus executed in colour seem to have been a natural 
development from the bas-relief carving in stone 
which they had brought to such great perfection, 
and in fact replaced it in later times. 

The painters of Greece, if we may judge by the 
descriptions in Pliny and the wall-paintings in Pom- 
peii, carried the pictorial art much further, though it 
is open to question whether their greatest painters 
reached a level in pictorial art which we should re- 
gard as the natural equivalent of their skill in sculp- 

33 3 


ture. At the same time, it must be remembered 
that the Pompeian decorations are not supposed to 
be the work of great artists, but rather of capable 
craftsmen, in many cases copying probably well- 
known Greek pictures. 

The two main sources of information as to the 
materials and technical methods employed, with 
which alone we have here to do, are Pliny and 

Pliny the Elder was a most voluminous writer and 
reader, and has left behind his Natural History ?& 
the monument of his labours. This can best be de- 
scribed as the encyclopaedia of his time. Inquiry 
has often resulted in showing that Pliny was more 
accurate and more reliable than careless commen- 
tators and inefficient experimenters had supposed. 
His remarks on painting, moreover, are of peculiar 
interest, because we have as illustrations to his work 
the frescoes in Pompeii and Herculaneum which 
have remained buried beneath the ashes of Vesuvius, 
thus preserved for our inspection by the very erup- 
tion in which Pliny himself perished. Going him- 
self to investigate the disaster, and being of a full 
habit, he died on the shore from heat and suffocation 
before he could reach his ship, as has been described 
most fully by his nephew, Pliny the Younger. So 



that we have here the remarkable coincidence that 
the only writer on painting in classical times, whose 
writings have come down to us with any complete- 
ness, perished in the eruption which smothered in 
ashes and thus sealed for centuries the only ex- 
tensive record left us of the classical treatment of 

The other writer to whom we shall have to refer 
is of quite a different type. Vitruvius was an archi- 
tect in the reign of Augustus, and therefore a little 
before the time of Pliny, and had charge more 
especially of the engines of war for the emperor. 
His book, therefore, deals with architecture, but 
in the course of it he treats of the decoration of 
plastered wall surfaces with colour, and also de- 
scribes several kinds of pigments. 

There is in addition some description of pigments 
in the work on stones by Theophrastus. 

To return to Pliny : dealing as he does not only 
with various objects in nature, animal, mineral, 
and vegetal, but also with the uses to which they 
can be put, and the methods of utilising them, as 
might be expected, the commonest described are 
those for medicinal purposes, nearly every con- 
ceivable substance being supposed to have some 
medicinal value, and able to cure a great variety 



of diseases. But other purposes of a more practical 
nature occur from time to time, along with detailed 
accounts of the habits of bees, of the culture of the 
grape, of mining for precious metals, and many- 
other matters of curious interest. 

It follows in the course of such a compilation that 
many substances are described which, while used 
for other purposes, might have been utilised by 
painters, though we are usually left in doubt on this 
point, while other substances are, we are told defin- 
itely, used for pigments. 

We find, moreover, a discourse on the great 
painters of Greece and Rome, with some account 
of their styles of painting and their works, and in- 
teresting anecdotes about them, and incidentally 
further light on the materials used and the technical 

Pliny was, however, essentially a compiler. He 
quotes throughout numberless authorities from 
which he obtained his information, and necessarily, 
in most cases, has no practical acquaintance with 
what he is describing. This want of practical know- 
ledge isunfortunatelyonlytoo evident inmanycases. 

In addition to the authorities already mentioned, 
some information on oils and resins is to be found 
in the pages of the physician Dioscorides, and there 



are brief references here and there in classical liter- 
ature from which additional information can be 
gleaned ; but it is almost entirely to Pliny and to 
Vitruvius that we have to trust for any light upon 
this curious and interesting subject. 

We shall begin, then, by dealingwith the informa- 
tion we have about pictures painted on panel in 
classical times. 

With the exception of two probable forgeries, not 
a single example has come down to us of the pic- 
tures painted by Greek and Roman artists upon 
panel or canvas. The nearest approach that we have 
are the portraits already referred to, discovered by 
Flinders Petrie at Hawara, and supposed to beabout 
the second century a.d. These, while to a great ex- 
tent, as will be seen presently, revealing the tech- 
nical methods of wax painting, and in many cases 
showing great vigour of treatment, in spiteof certain 
conventions, are doubtless the crude work of the 
undertaker's hack, and are not to be regarded as re- 
presenting the artistic possibilities of the times. It 
is evident from Pliny's account that the painting of 
pictures had been carried on for a long time among 
the Greeks, and that great schools of painting had 
arisen, and the works of the painters were evidently 
regarded as of equal artistic merit with the works of 



sculpture, and were purchased by wealthy Romans 
and by the emperors to adorn their palace walls. 
The references given by Pliny also reveal the fact 
that there were many writers on art and art critics 
who had discussed the merits of the various schools 
of painters. For instance, there existed at that time 
different points of view, very similar to those to be 
found to-day, and which we label " Impressionist" 
and " Realistic." A skilful analysis of the actual 
statements of Pliny has shown it to be possible, with 
every appearance of probability, to detect from what 
writer different criticisms that he makes have come. 
It is not our place to consider this side of Pliny's 
work here, and it is merely referred to in passing as 
showing that painting was considered in classical 
times as one of the greatest and most important 
branches of art. It is also equally clear from the 
account given by Pliny that the painters were di- 
vided into two schools according to the medium 
which they used, just as to-day we might speak of 
painters in oil and painters inwater-colour. Of these 
two schools, one made use of beeswax, and we shall 
have to consider shortly, with some detail, exactly 
how this medium was utilised ; but of the other me- 
dium there is no definite information to be obtained 
anywhere. This, it is needless to say, has led to 



many speculations, some having even gone so far as 
to declare that the pictures were painted in oil. It 
is, of course, impossible in a book of this length to 
consider in full detail all the arguments to be derived 
from a careful examination of the text of Pliny and 
other writers, and at the best therefore we can only 
give conclusions on this subject, and state what 
seems most probable, as it is impossible to give the 
space required for a detailed critical consideration 
to these questions. 



The two main literary sources for obtaining know- 
ledge about the pigments used in classical times are, 
as already stated, Pliny and the seventh book of 
Vitruvius on architecture, with some additional in- 
formation from Theophrastus. In addition to these 
literary sources, however, we have the actual analy- 
sis of Egyptian pigments, some of which have al- 
ready been quoted, and of pots of paint found at 
Pompeii and elsewhere, and of the pigments found 
on Pompeian and other Greek and Roman frescoes. 
To deal with all this mass of information in detail, 
and to quote the results of the various chemists and 
give every referenceto the texts of Pliny and others, 
would be tedious in the extreme. The larger number 
of pigments have been identified without doubt, and 
the fringe left of obscure references is not of enough 



importance to delay us. We shall find a most ex- 
cellent and complete palette available for the Greek 
or Roman painter in the time of the Empire. 

Before, therefore, going into the question of me- 
diums, I shall proceed to describe briefly the actual 
pigments that were in use. We find, as might be 
expected, that the earth-colours were well known. It 
may be necessary here to explain in passing that the 
earth-colours, as they are roughly called, consist of 
clays, which owe their peculiar tint to the presence 
of compounds of iron and in some cases of mangan- 
ese. The rich yellow ochres are entirely stained by 
compounds of iron, while the siennas contain some 
manganese, and the umbers almost entirely owe 
their colour to the presence of this mineral. The 
red ochres also owe their colour to the presence of 
iron, and are in many cases native, such as red hae- 
matite, or they can be obtained by roasting the 
yellow ochres. In addition there is a green pigment 
known as terre verte which owes its colour to iron, 
and which was largely used in ancient times. It is 
no longer possible to get such fine varieties of this 
pigment as were once obtainable. These pigments 
merely require mining, grinding, and floating over 
as already described in a former chapter, and have 
always formed and will always form an important 



part of the artist's palette, both for beauty and dura- 
bility. In addition to these there are other native 
pigments, which, however, require more careful pre- 
paration. Many of the ores of copper are beautiful 
blues and greens, and of these the finest is azurite, 
ablue carbonate of copper, already referred to. Good 
specimens of azurite merely require to be ground to 
give a beautiful pigment, which is very suitable for 
painting in many mediums. It is, however, some- 
what sandy in character, and does not lend itself 
well to painting in oil. Other ground copper ores, 
such as malachite, in the same way yield fine greens 
which are somewhat sandy in character. There are, 
in addition, cinnabar, the red sulphide of mercury, 
which is, in fine specimens, very nearly as brilliant 
as the artificial preparation known as vermilion; and 
among yellows there is none more beautiful than 
orpiment, the native sulphide of arsenic. There are 
also other tints of this sulphide of arsenic which 
seem to have been used for pigments. Then among 
the whites we have a large number of white earths, 
of which chalk is of course the most important. This 
may be said to exhaust fairly completely the pig- 
ments which can be found native, and which do not 
require artificial preparation. In modern days or- 
piment has disappeared from the artist's palette, 



cinnabar has been replaced by the artificial prepa- 
ration known as vermilion, and the copper blues 
have quite ceased to be used. It is evident from 
Pliny's account that all these pigments were well 
known in classical times, and the next point of in- 
terest is how far artificial pigments were known and 
manufactured. There are certain descriptions in 
Pliny which are obscure and difficult to follow, and 
therefore it is not possible to identify all the pig- 
ments used in classical times, but at any rate a large 
number of them can be clearly distinguished. White 
lead, for instance, was prepared very much in the 
way in which the best English white lead is prepared 
to-day, by the corroding action of the vapour of 
vinegar and the carbonic acid gas of the air upon 
lead plates, the white corrosion formed on the sur- 
faceof the lead being collected and washed and used 
as a pigment. It seems also from Pliny's account 
that white lead was used as a face powder, so that 
it is evident that its deadly qualities were not then 
understood. In the preparation of lead from its ores 
and of silver, the discovery of the various oxides of 
lead had evidently been made in Pliny's time, as he 
describes more than one of these, and among them 
evidently red lead, which has also been identified on 
Roman frescoes. There is some confusion obvious 



in his account between red lead and vermilion, the 
word minmm being applied by him to the vermilion; 
but the existence of the pigments is without ques- 
tion. The preparation of verdigris by the action of 
vinegar on copper was also known, and the beauti- 
ful Egyptian blue has already been referred to. As 
has already been stated, Pliny's accounts of this blue 
are very vague, but it is clearly described by Vi- 

In addition to these mineral pigments, the use of 
dyes for the preparation of pigments was evidently 
well understood, and many of the commoner vege- 
tal dyes were obviously in use, such as weld, woad, 
and madder. They seem to have been accustomed 
to stain chalk or gypsum with these dyes, and so to 
prepare lakes. The description of such a madder 
dye from Egypt has already beengiven, and also the 
fact that the chemist John has discovered the use 
of a vegetal yellow lake in Egypt. Pliny speaks 
of dyeing some of the mineral pigments with a view 
to enhancing their colour. It is possible that this 
may have been done, but it is not very probable. 
In addition to these dyes there are two others which 
require to be mentioned. One of these is the fa- 
mous murex, the shellfish from which the imperial 
purple dye was obtained. Vitruvius speaks of 



thickening this with honey, and Pliny speaks of its 
being precipitated by means of a white earth which 
was used for the cleaning of silver, and which was 
probably infusorial earth, as this earth has the pro- 
perty not only of absorbing certain liquids, and 
therefore forming the basis of dynamite, but also of 
absorbing and fixing certain aniline dyes, and itmay 
well be that it also had the property of taking up the 
murex purple. Pliny speaks of it as having a greater 
attraction for the purple than wool. The use of dyes, 
of course, involved the knowledge of mordants, and 
Pliny describes at great length a substance of the 
name of alumen, which, ifitwasnot ourmodern alum, 
must have been some similar aluminous compound. 
The next dye which requires to be referred to is 
kermes. This dye is due to an insect of the same 
kind as the cochineal insect, which lives on the 
prickly oak round the shores of the Mediterranean, 
and forms dry, hollow red berries in appearance. 
This was used both for dyeing and the preparation 
of pigments in classical and medieval times, and it 
is not until the introduction of the cochineal from 
Mexico after its conquest by Cortes that kermes be- 
gins to be replaced by the more brilliant cochineal. 
Its use has been revived in recent times for dyeing 
tapestry by the late William Morris. Blacks were 



prepared either from lamp-black by burning resins 
and fats and collecting the smoke, or from charcoal, 
or apparently from bones. Pliny tells us that painters 
have been known to go so far as to dig up half- 
charred bones from the sepulchres for the purpose 
of making black. Pliny also mentions the prepa- 
ration of black from dried vine-leaves and from 
grape husks, both of which are known to give a 
black of fine quality at the present day. In addition 
to these substances, there is a reference in Pliny 
which is quite unmistakable to the use of indigo, 
which, he tells us, can be obtained either from the 
scum of the dyers' vats, which would mean the dyers 
who were usingwoad, or from India, and he describes 
its properties with such exactness that there can be 
no question that indigo is the substance referred to. 
We must therefore suppose that at any rate in the 
first century a.d. indigo was exported to Rome from 
India. In conclusion, there is another reference 
which is supposed to be to the red resin which is 
used for colouring varnishes, and which was known 
as dragon's-blood, and which also comes from the 
East. This reference is of so quaint a character that 
it is worth quoting. In the eighth book of his 
Natural History Pliny describes the antipathy be- 
tween the elephant and the dragon, stating that they 



are perpetually at war, and that the contest is equally- 
fatal to both, as the dragon envelops the elephant 
in its coils, and the elephant, vanquished, falls and 
by its weight crushes the dragon. The whole details 
of this contest are given at some length. Again, in 
book xxxiii., chapter xxxviii., when describing red 
pigments, he tells us that the name cinnabar should 
properly be given to the thick matter which issues 
from the dragon when crushed beneath the weight 
of the dying elephant, and is mixed with the blood 
of either animal. Again, in one of his moralising 
moods, in book xxxv., chapter xxxii., he compares 
the limited palette used byolder Greek painters with 
the craze for brilliant colouring in the modern Rome 
of his day, which, while no pictures of high quality, 
he tells us, are produced, yet results in 1 ndia sending 
the slime of her rivers (supposed to be a reference to 
indigo) and the corrupt blood of her dragons and 
her elephants. Sufficient has now been said of the 
pigments available to the artist in classical times. 
It will be noted that the palette is very complete, 
and differs little from that which was used up to the 
dawn of modern chemistry. There is only one pig- 
ment, and that one of the most beautiful and valu- 
able in the eyes of the medieval painters, viz. ultra- 
marine, extracted from lapis lazuli, to which there 



seems to be no distinct reference ; and on the 
whole, after careful examination of the texts of Pliny 
and Theophrastus, I am driven to the conclusion 
that the preparation of a blue from lapis lazuli, which 
as we shall prove later on is no easy matter, was not 
known in classical times. 



In the following chapter we shall discuss the method 
by which wax was utilised as a medium for encaustic 
painting ; and here it is necessary to repeat what has 
already been stated, that there were evidently two 
schools of painters : those who used a medium un- 
known, and those who used wax and were called 
painters in encaustic. In order to explain this use of 
wax, it is necessary for us to consider at this point 
what the possibilities are in the way of mediums 
for painting and what properties they possess. An 
artist's medium must be something which can be 
readily mixed with the pigment and yet will serve 
to attach it to the surface, and in addition, if possible, 
it should protect the pigment so attached from chem- 
ical or other injury. The most obvious mediums, 
therefore, are such materials as gum or glue, or egg, 
but none of these possess the property of protecting 

49 4 


the pigment thoroughly from the attacks of moisture 
or other chemical agents. Doubtless, though, such 
mediums would be found satisfactory in such a cli- 
mate as that of Greece, and therefore it would not 
be necessary for them to search for a medium which 
would resist the action of water. But in another 
direction such a medium would be sought for, and 
a clue to this search has come to us from Pliny, 
who speaks of the painting and decorating of ships. 
The tarring of ships seems to have been done by 
means of a woodtar prepared from a variety of pine. 
This tar is known at the present day, and is prepared 
by piling up branches of the trees, covering them 
with turf, and setting them on fire and boiling out 
the resins which the tree contains, which pour out as 
a dark brown tar. Pliny tells us that ships were 
decorated with colour, and this would not be impos- 
sible with a wood tar of this character, as when laid 
on wood it is like a very dark brown varnish, and 
therefore could be mixed with pigments which would 
not entirely lose their colouring value. In addition 
we learn that this tarwas mixed with beeswax before 
being applied to ships, and this mixture would be 
tougher and lighter in colour than the tar alone, and 
mixed with pigments would form the basis for a rude 
method of ship decoration. It is easy to understand 



how such a method of decoration would be develop- 
ed, how pictures on panel would be attempted, and 
how the white beeswax alone would ultimately be 
used and the dark-coloured sticky tar excluded. 
But it is also evident from Pliny that the use of 
beeswax for decorative purposes was approached 
from another direction. Sticks of wax mixed with 
pigment were prepared, and these were modelled 
upon the surface with little hot bronze instruments 
known as cauteria. It is evident from Pliny's de- 
scription that both these methods were in use for the 
production of pictures in wax. In fact, he describes 
threemethods of using wax : one with the cauterium, 
one with the cestrum on ivory, and the third with 
melted wax and the brush. The reference to the use 
of wax and ivory by means of the cestrum has led to 
endless speculation. There is only one other refer- 
ence to it in Pliny, where he mentions laia of Cyzi- 
cus, a lady painter who was famous for her portraits 
on ivory by this process. Probably the process con- 
sisted of some methodof engraving on the ivory with 
the sharp-pointed cestrum and following up the lines 
with coloured wax ; but it is difiScult to understand 
exactly what pictorial effect would be gained in this 
way, though the results may have been similar to 
the Italian grafifito in effect. To return to the 



consideration of the two other methods referred to 
in this chapter, namely, modelling with coloured 
sticks of wax, and the painting on of coloured melted 
wax with the brush, we find that such authorities 
as Eastlake and Donner rejected the possibility 
of using melted wax with the brush on account of 
the rapid cooling on the surface of the panel, and, 
owing to a mistranslation of the phrase, "Ceris 
pingere ac picturam inurere," assumed that a liquid 
wax medium was used which was subsequently 
fused on the surface of the picture. The discovery 
by Petrie of the wax portraits at Hawara threw 
fresh light upon the whole question. The wax por- 
traits discovered at Hawara originated in a custom 
which grew up in Egypt of having a hole cut in the 
upper part of the coffin and a portrait of the deceased 
inserted. The coffin was then stood up on end in a 
corner of the house, and ultimately removed for 
burial. Some of these wax portraits had been brought 
into the market by natives, but were regarded as pro- 
bable forgeries until Flinders Petrieunearthed them 
in situ, many of them in an excellent state of pre- 
servation, and clearly revealing the use both of the 
cauterium and the brush. Petrie points out that the 
liquid condition of the wax after being laid on the 
panel is clearly shown in one portrait by the eye 




having got smudged by a careless finger, just as to- 
day a still wet oil-painting might be injured. These 
portraits are of peculiar interest, as we see both pro- 
cesses described by Pliny used upon the same panel. 
The faces are usually modelled, while the drapery 
has been laid in with the brush ; and, as Petrie points 
out, the difficulty of using wax in Egypt, at any rate 
for many months in the year, would not consist in 
the fact of its cooling too rapidly, but in the fact that 
it did not cool fast enough, as it would remain melted 
in the sun. In colder climates the difficulty can be 
got over by slightly warming the surface of the panel. 
The experiments which I myself made and which 
have been made by some Edinburgh artists have 
shown clearly that there is no real difficulty in carrying 
out this operation, even in a climate like ours. Each 
stroke of the brush must be laid on with certainty, 
and placed exactly where it is wanted, but there is 
no difficulty in keeping the panel sufficiently warm 
to make this possible without melting the whole of 
the wax already in position, as there is a consider- 
able gap in temperature between that necessary to 
melt the wax and that necessary to enable the al- 
ready melted wax on the brush to be laid into posi- 
tion. Both thin painting and impasto painting can 
be easily accomplished, and the finished work, after 



polishing with a cloth, has all the appearance of an 

A few more details of the process as carried out 
in my experiments may, however, be of value to any 
artist who wishes to experiment for himself 

In the first place, the white wax usually sold is 
commonly adulterated, and only genuine beeswax 
should be employed. This can be obtained through 
reputable druggists if the genuinearticle be demand- 
ed, and is somewhat yellow in colour. This amount 
of yellowness will not seriously affect the pigments. 

A panel of wood well seasoned and without prim- 
ing, or a panel coated with gesso, can be used. It is 
rather apt to warp a little during use, and on the 
whole the thin unprepared panels to be obtained 
from artist's colourmen are found most useful. If 
canvas is used it should only be sized and not prim- 
ed. Probably unsized canvas would do equally well. 

To prepare the colours, finely powdered dry pig- 
ments should be purchased and then melted up with 
wax in the little stamped metal pans which are used 
by microscopists to prepare their sections. 

These pans are best kept hot on a copper plate 
some eighth of an inch thick and twelve inches each 
way, which is placed over a ring Bunsen burner 
turned low. 



This copper plate also serves as a palette for mix- 
ing tints. Ordinary stiff artist's brushes are used, but 
care has to be taken to prevent the plate getting so 
hot that the brushes are burnt. 

The panel can be warmed in front of a fire, or over 
a ring burner, simply waving it about in the hand ; 
or a soldering bolt can be used held near the sur- 
face, though this is not recommended. Practice is of 
course required so as not to overheat or underheat 
the panel, and to put in the touches of pigment firmly 
and quickly while the wax is still hot. Mistakes 
can be removed with a penknife, and the picture 
when finished can be polished by lightly rubbing 
with a handkerchief 

The moulding with the cauterium has also been 
thoroughly cleared up by the discovery of the actual 
instruments in Pompeii and elsewhere. The most 
interesting of all these discoveries was a painter's 
grave found at St Medard in France, evidently of 
about the fourth or fifth century. The artist was a 
lady, and she had had her grave made sufficiently 
large to contain not only her own body, but all her 
implements of painting. The remains of brushes, 
and a series of bronze instruments were found, long 
and thin, flattened at one end and shaped like a 
spoon at the other, which were the cauteria used for 



melting and also for modelling the wax. In addi- 
tion to the pots of paint, the grave also contained 
jars of beeswax and mixtures of beeswax and resin. 
Thereason for the presence of resin is fairly obvious. " 
As has been already explained in referring to the 
Egyptian coffins, the simplest form of varnish which 
could be used is the natural semi-fluid resin as it 
comes from the tree. Such semi-fluid resins, obtain- 
ed from the pine, are well known, as Venice tur- 
pentine and the modern Canada balsam, and would 
exist in large quantities in the neighbourhood of the 
artist of St M^dard. Working in a colder climate 
than the artist of Egypt or Greece, it would be of 
advantage to reduce the melting-point of the wax, 
while anything which increased its transparency and 
the hardness and durability of the finished picture 
would also be a gain. All these objects can be easily 
accomplished by mixing the balsam to be obtained 
from the neighbouring pine-woods with the bees- 
wax, thus forming a medium more suited to northern 
climates than the original beeswax of the Greeks. 

There was also found in the grave at St Medard a 
bronze box covered with a silver grid, which probab- 
ly contained glowing charcoal and could be used for 
melting the wax and warming the panel if neces- 



Accorditig to receipt in i^iiny. . 


The following quotations from Pliny will serve to 
make the descriptions given above of the method of 
encaustic painting perfectly clear. I n the first place, 
in chapter xlix. of book xxi. he describes the pre- 
paration of beeswax as follows : — 

" Wax is made from honeycombs out of which the 
honey has been pressed. Having been first cleaned 
with water and dried for three days in the shade, the 
combs are on the fourth day melted on the fire in a 
new earthen vessel with water enough to cover them, 
and then strained off in a wicker basket. The wax 
is again boiled in the same pot with the same water, 
and is poured into cold water contained in vessels 
the interior of which has been smeared all over with 
honey. The best wax is that called Punic, the next 
that of a very yellow colour with the smell of honey, 
which, though of Pontic origin, is unaffected, I am 
surprised to find, by its poisonous honey. Next best 
is the Cretan, for it has a large proportion of propolis 
of which we spoke when treating of bees. Next to 
these is the Corsican, which, as it comes from the 
box-tree, is believed to have medicinal qualities. 
Punic wax is prepared as follows : Yellow wax is 
exposed to the outside air for some time, then boiled 
in sea-water taken from the open sea, with nitrum 
added. Then the flower, that is, the whitest part, is 



skimmed off and poured into a vessel containing a 
little cold water. Again it is boiled in sea-water by 
itself, then the vessel, or at-iea&t the water, cooled. 
When this has been done three times the wax is 
dried in the open air on a mat of rushes in the light 
of the sun and the moon. For the latter makes it 
white, the sun dries it, and lest it should melt it is 
covered with a thin linen cloth. It will become ex- 
ceedingly white if it is boiled again after the ex- 
posure to the sun. Punic wax is the most useful for 
medicines. Wax becomes black when papyrus ash 
is added to it. It becomes red when mixed with 
alkanet ; with pigments it is made to assume various 
colours in order to represent true likenesses of ob- 
jects. It is useful to men in numberless ways, even 
serving as a protection for walls and weapons. 
Other particulars concerning bees and honey we 
have stated when speaking of the nature of these 

This chapter has given rise to extraordinary mis- 
conceptions and speculations, under the idea that 
"Punic wax" was a mysterious substance of the 
nature of a wax soap or emulsion. 

It has been conclusivelyproved by modern chemi- 
cal investigation, in spite of a recent revival of these 
theories by Herr Berger InhisMa/^ecAmk desAlter- 



turns, that " Punic wax " differs in no respect from 
ordinary wax, the boiling with " nitrum " or bicar- 
bonate of soda and salt water being without influ- 
ence on the final product, while the preparation of 
an emulsion of wax and soda is clearly ruled out by 
Pliny's own description of its preparation and pro- 

In the part of his work devoted to painting the 
following references occur to the encaustic process, 
which will be sufficiently clear after the description 
already given. 

In the first place, in the table of contents we find 
the following : — 
" Qui penicillo pinxerint. 

De avium cantu compescendo. 

Qui encausto cauterio vel cestro vel penicillo 
" Those who painted with the brush. 

On silencing the singing of birds. 

Those who painted in encaustic with the cauteri- 
um, the cestrum, and the brush." 

This table of contents is one of the pieces of evi- 
dence among others of the existence of two kinds of 
painting — one with the medium unknown and the 
other with wax, as we find in the context that at the 
end of the long description of painters who are 



merely spoken of as " painters with the brush " 
comes a quaint chapter in which we are told how 
an artist silenced the singing of the birds by fright- 
ening them with the picture of a dragon painted 
round the walls of his garden ; and then follow the 
chapters dealing with encaustic painters. 

The next important reference occurs among the 
chapters describing the preparation and properties of 
various pigments, and is as follows, in chapter xxxi., 
book XXXV. : — 

" Ex omnibus coloribus cretulam amant, udoque 
inlini recusant purpurissum, Indicum, cseruleum, 
Melinum, auripigmentum, Appianum, cerussa. 
Cerae tinguntur isdem his coloribus ad eas picturas, 
quae inuruntur, alieno parietibus genere, sed classi- 
bus familiari, jam vero et onerariis navibus, quon- 
iam et pericula expingimus, ne quis miretur et rogos 
pingi, juvatque pugnaturos ad mortem aut certe 
csedem speciose vehi." "Of all colours those which 
love a chalk ground and refuse to be laid on a damp 
surface are purpurissum, indigo, caeruleum, Melian 
white, orpiment, Appianum, and white lead. Waxes 
are stained with these same colours for pictures in 
encaustic, a kind of painting unsuitable for walls, 
but commonly used for ships of war, and now also 
for merchant ships. Since we paint even those vehi- 



cles of danger, no one should be surprised if we also 
paint our funeral piles, and like to have gladiators 
conveyed in splendid carriages to death or at least 
to carnage." 

Again, after completing his description of artists 
who painted with the brush, he says, in chapter xxxix. 
of book XXXV. : — 

" Ceris pingere ac picturam inurere quis primus 
excogitaverit, non constat. Quidam Aristidis in- 
ventum putant, postea consummatum a Praxitele ; 
sed aliquanto vetustiores encaustae picturse exsti- 
tere, ut Polygnoti et Nicanoris, Mnesilai Pariorum. 
Elasippus quoque Aeginse picturse suae inscripsit 
eveKuev, quod profecto non fecisset, nisi encaustica 
inventa. " " 1 1 is not agreed who first thought of paint- 
ing with wax colours and making a picture by heat. 
Some think the art was invented by Aristides and 
afterwards brought to perfection by Praxiteles. But 
there are in existence encaustic pictures of a date 
somewhat earlier than theirs, such as those by Poly- 
gnotus, and by the Parians Nicanor and Mnesilaus. 
Elasippus also wrote onhis pictures at ^gina evexaev, 
which he certainly would not have done unless en- 
caustic painting had been invented." 

As has been already stated, the inaccurate trans- 
lation of the opening lines of this chapter has given 



rise in the past to endless misconception of the real 
nature of this process. 

In conclusion, in chapter xli. of book xxxv. is as 
follows : — 

" Encausto pingendi duo fuere antiquitus genera, 
cera et in ebore cestro, id est, vericulo, donee classes 
pingi ccepere. Hoc tertium accessit resolutis igni 
ceris penicillo utendi, quse pictura navibus nee sole 
nee sale ventisve corrumpitur." " In ancient times 
there were [only] two methods of encaustic painting, 
with wax and on ivory with the cestrum, that is, with 
a sharp-pointed tool, until it became the custom to 
paint ships of war. Then the third method was added, 
that of melting the wax colours with fire and laying 
them on with a brush. This kind of painting applied 
to ships is not injured by sun, wind, or salt water." 

After the description which hasalready been given 
of this method of painting, no further discussion of 
thequotations is needed, as, with theexception of the 
reference to ivory and the cestrum, they are perfect- 
ly clear and consistent. 

Wehavethussucceeded in piecingtogetheracom- 
plete picture of this lost art of painting, which in skil- 
ful hands must have had great possibilities, and ap- 
proached very nearly in its effects to those obtained 
to-day from solid painting in oil. 



According; to receipt in Pliny, 

Page 6*. 



Reference has already been made to the fact that 
there were two schools of Greek painters, one of 
whom used wax, in the ways already described, and 
the other school using some other medium. It is 
quite clear from Pliny's text that this other school 
existed, although it would take us too long here to 
give a complete proof of this by quotations from his 
Natural Histoiy. This other school were also paint- 
ers on panel, although Pliny speaks as well of paint- 
ing on canvas, and reference to wall-painting is made 
by him, although he makes no very clear distinction 
as to the methods used. According to him, they 
were all painters with the brush, without any further 
distinction. We have to look, therefore, for negative 
rather than positive evidence as to what this medium 
probably was. In the first place, the question natur- 



ally arises as to whether they may not have painted 
in oil, and it has in fact been suggested by some 
writers that this was probably the medium used. 
Such painting in oil requires, of course, not only a 
knowledge of drying oils themselves, but also their 
properties — that is, of gradually absorbing oxygen 
from the air and forming a firm, transparent, elastic 
varnish. It is possible, of course, that anything may 
have been known in classical times, and that no re- 
cord may have been kept of it ; but in an inquiry of 
this kind we are bound to assume, until evidence has 
been overwhelmingly produced to the contrary, that 
the actual statement left us by writers like Vitruvius, 
himself a practical architect, and like Pliny, who 
collected all the knowledge of his time to pour into 
his Natural History, is in itself complete, and that, 
although details may be missing, yet the main facts 
known at the time are given to us. In the chapter 
on Egypt the two methods of preparing varnishes 
by mixing them with a volatile medium or mixing 
them with a drying oil were fully described, and it 
was pointed out that it was highly probable that the 
varnish used by the Egyptians was the natural var- 
nish formed by the semi-liquid resin as itcomes from 
the tree ; but not very much was said about the 
drying oils themselves. There are several vegetal 



oils that have this peculiar property of drying, but 
of these the best known are linseed oil, walnut oil, 
and poppy seed oil ; and we find in Pliny's descrip- 
tions of oils of various kinds that he mentions the 
preparation of walnut oil, while again in Dioscorides 
we find a description of the preparation of poppy oil. 
Neither of these writers describesthe preparation of 
an oil from linseed, although the linseed itself is de- 
scribed as suitable for making poultices for medical 
purposes. We have, then, a knowledge of the two 
oils, but there is no hint or suggestion throughout 
Plinythat these oils differ from any other oils in their 
property of drying, or that they can beutilised on that 
account as a medium for painting. The first sugges- 
tion of the use of a drying oil, not as a medium for 
painting, but as a varnish to cover the finished pic- 
tures, ismade bya medical writer of the sixth century 
of the name of Aetius. We are therefore bound to 
assume until further evidence is obtained that the 
use of drying oils for a painting medium had not oc- 
curred to the minds of anybody in classical times, 
the nearest approach to recognition of their pro- 
perties being the description by Pliny of a bird-lime 
made of the juice of the mistletoe mixed with nut 
oil. Another strong argument against their having 
been known is the fact, already stated, that they 

65 5 


used wax as a medium for painting pictures. Wax 
in itself is so troublesome a medium to handle as 
compared with oil, that there can, I think, be no 
doubt that if they had known of the use of dryingoils 
they would have discarded wax. On the other hand, 
as we have already seen, they were familiar with the 
preparation of glue, and in preparing lamp-black for 
the painter's use ground it upwithalittleglue accord- 
ing to the modern practice, and with the use of gum 
for preparing inks. Then they also had, of course, 
the tempera medium, egg, either the white or the 
yolk, at their command. We find in Pliny reference 
distinctly made to the use of egg. Curiously enough, 
an egg medium which we shall find described by 
Cennino Cennini in the fifteenth century as a mix- 
ture of egg with the juice of the fig tree (which con- 
tains a certain amount of caoutchouc), is mentioned 
by Pliny, but is not described as being used by the 
painter, but as being used for medical purposes. 
Pliny, however, in telling us how to lay on gold leaf, 
advises that it should be done by means of white of 
egg painted upon the properly prepared surface. In 
another place he tells us that in order to produce a 
purple colour the Tyrian purple mixed with egg is 
painted over sandyx. These are the only two re- 
ferences which he makes to the use of egg on the 



part of painters, and it is not at all clear from the 
second reference whether he is referring to painting 
on panel or to painting on walls, and whether he 
regards the use of egg as peculiar or is merely de- 
scribing the way in which the particular tint is pro- 
duced upon the picture by the combination of these 
two colours. The actual passage, which has given 
rise to much comment, is as follows (chapter xxvi., 
book XXXV.) : " Pingentes sandyce sublita, mox ex 
ovo inducentes purpurissum fulgorem minii faciunt. 
Si purpurae facere malunt, cseruleum sublinunt, 
mox purpurissum ex ovo inducunt." " Painters put 
on sandyx as a ground colour ; thereafter, laying on 
purpurissum with egg, they produce the brilliance of 
vermilion. If they prefer to produce the brilliance 
of purple they put on caeruleum as the groundcolour, 
and then lay on purpurissum with egg." Again, it is 
obvious from his accounts of the pictures painted by 
this method that they were easily injured by damp ; 
and he tells a story of Protogenes attempting to 
paint the foam upon a dog's mouth, repeatedlypaint- 
ing it in and sponging it off again, until at last in a 
temper he threw the sponge, loaded with pigment, 
at thepicture,and found that he had produced exact- 
ly the effect he wanted. This certainly suggests the 
use of some medium mixed with water, although the 



description is not incompatible with the use of an oil 
medium. There is also a reference made by Plutarch 
which in the absence of more direct evidence may 
perhaps be taken as throwing some light upon the 
question, although its application to this purpose has 
been criticised by some good scholars. In his Ama- 
torius he says : " For indeed sight seems to paint 
all flying fancies on a wet ground, so swiftly do they 
fade and leave the mind ; but the images of those 
beloved, painted by it as it were in encaustic by 
means of fire, leave behind in the memory shapes 
which move and live and speak and remain forever." 
He certainly seems to be contrasting here the two 
schools of painting, the painters in encaustic or 
wax and the painters on the wet ground, so that, 
if this passage is to be taken literally, the other 
school of painting made use of some watery medium. 
The first actual reference to a painting receipt is not 
made until we come to the third or fourth century, 
when in a papyrus found at Thebes a medium con- 
sisting of egg and gum mixed, with the addition of 
bile to make the colour flow easily, is referred to. 
This is the whole of the evidence available as to 
the medium which was used in classical times ; but 
we must remember that we have in addition the 
fact of the Byzantine tradition, which was handed on 



to the Italian artists of the fourteenth century, and 
in which we find that the medium is universally egg. 
There is also the fact that, of the obvious mediums 
at the command of the painter, gum, egg, and size 
or glue, egg would probably prove to be the most 
useful in classical times as it proved to be in medi- 
eval times ; and therefore, until there is more defi- 
nite evidence than is at present obtainable, we are 
probably fairly safe in assuming that the Greek pic- 
tures were painted with an egg medium just as the 
medieval and fifteenth-century pictures were paint- 
ed in the same medium. The reason why Pliny 
never mentions the medium is that it does not occur 
to him to refer to something so obvious, and which 
is a matter of common experience and practice. He 
speaks of the invention of the wax medium, and dis- 
cusses who invented it. The other medium did not re- 
quire invention, as it lay to everybody's hand. I have 
purposely avoided, in all this, again discussing the 
many fancy mediums which have been invented for 
the painters of classical times : the mixtures of wax 
and turpentine or naphtha, wax and drying oils, or 
wax and soda or potash. We shall have to discuss 
later certain receipts in which wax appears ; but on 
the one hand the evidence from Plinyas to the actual 
process of painting from beeswax is so clear and 



definite and proves to be so simple in practice, and 
on the other hand the evidence as to the second 
medium is so completely absent, that all such specu- 
lations are of no value to the student. 

It still remains for us to consider the question 
as to how far the Greek pictures were varnished. 
The need of varnishes has already been dealt with, 
but it is necessary, perhaps, to say here a word or two 
more on the subject of the preparation of volatile 
mediums — namely, alcohol, turpentine, and naphtha, 
— as, unless we are quite clear as to the question as to 
whether volatile mediums existed in classical times, 
we cannot have a definite idea as to whether such 
mediums as varnishes are available. The prepara- 
tion of these three mediumsdependsupon the know- 
ledge of the art of distillation ; that is to say, it de- 
pends upon the construction of a closed vessel with 
a pipe leading out from the top which is bent over 
and perhaps twisted into a worm, and in manycases 
placed in water to keep it cool. On boiling the liquid 
enclosed in the vessel the vapour passes through the 
pipe and is condensed and drips as liquid through 
the end. If, then, we wish to prepare alcohol from 
wine or beer or any other fermented liquor, we place 
it in a still and distil off the alcohol. In this way 
brandy, whisky, spirits of wine, and other more or 



less impure preparations of alcohol are made. If 
we wish to prepare spirits of turpentine, the semi- 
liquid resin from the tree is placed in the still and 
the turpentine is distilled from it with the help of 
steam ; or if from the crude petroleum as it rises from 



The MSS. containing these fig- 
ures of distiUing apparatus 
(alembic) were copied in 
the eleventh and fifteenth 
centuries, but they repro- 
duce more ancient MSS., 
and the figures correspond Early distilling apparatus 

exactly to descriptions in (alembic) from a MS. in 

the text. St Mark's, Venice. 

the soil we wish to obtain the thin, light, and vola- 
tile petroleum suitable for artists' purposes, we heat 
the petroleum in a still and use the portion which 
first comes over. It is evident, then, that a proper 
knowledge of distillation is necessary for the pre- 
paration of such volatile mediums, and therefore for 



the preparation of what we have already described 
as spirit varnishes. The whole of this question has 
been investigated most carefully by Berthelot in his 
inquiry into early preparation of alcohol and into 
the history of early chemistry and of alchemy ; and 
it is to some of the writers on alchemy that we have 
to look for information upon this subject. It is evi- 
dent that the first form of still consisted merely of 
covering the open pot or vessel with some kind of 
cloth in which the liquid was condensed, and from 
which it could be wrung out afterwards. Pliny de- 
scribes an oil which can be obtained from pitch by 
heating the pitch and covering the pot with a sheep's 
fleece, and then wringing out the fleece and collect- 
ing the oil. This is evidently a very crude method 
of distillation, which must have come before the in- 
vention of the proper still, which has already been 
described; and it is certainly unlikely that a satisfac- 
tory preparation of turpentine, naphtha, or alcohol 
could be made in this way or prepared of such a 
quality or in such quantities as would be of any use 
to the artist. It is not until we come at any rate to 
the third century that we get a definite description 
of the process of distillation ; and while the early 
drawings have been lost, drawings have been found 
in a manuscript which is in the library of St Mark's 



at Venice which agree closely with the descriptions 
given by these earlier writers. These drawings are 
of proper stills, though somewhat quaint in design ; 
and the process of distillation was evidently clearly 
described by a learned Egyptian lady of the name 
of Cleopatra who lived some time in the early Chris- 
tian era ; while there are other references at about 
this time. We may take it, then, that the art of dis- 
tillation was invented somewhere about the third or 
fourth century, but it was probably kept as a mys- 
tery among the alchemists and only used for the pre- 
paration of small quantities of distilled liquors for 
medical purposes ; in fact, it is evident that such dis- 
tilled liquors were regarded with much reverence 
and mystery. It would be long before such appar- 
atus came into general use for supplying the needs 
of commerce or volatile mediums. Naphtha in its 
crude form was of course known to the ancients, as 
well as various forms of bitumen ; and Pliny describes 
a kind of brine which was obtained by those living 
in Babylon, and from which by boiling an oil was 
separated which they burned in lamps. Pliny has 
other references to naphtha which need not be given 
here. It is of interest to notice that on the shores of 
the Red Sea there are known to-day to be certain 
shallow petroleum deposits mixed with brine. 



If, then, we have no right to assume the pre- 
paration of volatile mediums, we are driven to the 
conclusion that any varnish used consisted of the 
natural varnish as it came from the tree or the resin 
mixed with drying oil. The mixture of resins and 
olive oil for medical purposes is found referred to by 
Pliny, but in no case is this admixture of drying oil 
referred to, or any suggestion made that in this way 
a varnish could be prepared. On the contrary, as 
already stated, the only approach towards a varnish 
of this description is a mixture of pitch and bees- 
wax used for ships. Here again the use of oil would 
have yielded such a superior produce that the fact 
of beeswax being used is further proof that the pro- 
perties of drying oils were not known. The classical 
painters then had the means to varnish their pictures 
with the natural semi-liquid resin or varnish ob- 
tained from the tree, and such semi-liquid resins were 
obtained at the time of the Roman empire from 
many sources. Pliny describes the resins from many 
varieties of pine, and also resins obtained from Syria 
and Africa, such as mastic, terebinth, and so on. 
We should therefore expect to find that the Greek 
artists varnished their tempera pictures. The one 
reference, however, to this process made by Pliny 
is very difficult to understand. Speaking of Apelles, 



in the first place he begins by telling us of his in- 
ventions in the art of painting, but that one of them 
nobody has been able to imitate, and then he pro- 
ceeds to give us a description of a process which is 
evidently some kind of varnishing. He tells us that 
heusedtocover his pictures with a layerof 'atramen- 
tum,' so thin that, while it created a reflection of all 
the colours and protected them from dust and dirt, 
it was itself invisible until examined very closely. 
Pliny, in his description of atramentum, mentions 
among the varieties a kind that exudes from the 
earth like the brine of salt-pits. This could only be 
some liquid form of bitumen, and his description of 
the process used by Apelles might certainly be sa- 
tisfied by his having very thinly covered his picture 
with a layer of liquid bitumen, because he tells us 
that one of the objects was to prevent the brightness 
of the colours from offending the eye. The bitumen, 
however, was, as obtained in its native state, pro- 
bably too dark, and it is more likely that Apelles 
made use of a semi-liquid resin which he darkened 
by dissolving in it a little of the fluid bitumen, and 
then laid it over the picture. If the picture was 
painted in tempera the effect of any such varnishing 
process would be very much as Pliny describes. The 
real difficulty lies in the fact that Pliny says nobody 



has been able to imitate this effect. At a time when 
pitch and crude varnish were being used constantly 
on ships, and long after the time when the Egyptians 
had been accustomed to varnish their coffins, and 
with semi-liquid varnishes capable of being obtained 
from various sources, it is very difficult to understand 
how this process of Apelles could have involved any 
mystery whatsoever. It seems incredible that the 
Greek painters had not realised the advantages to 
be gained by varnishing their tempera pictures, and 
were not accustomed to do so ; and it seems more 
probable that Pliny, ignorant of the knowledge of 
the studios, was under a complete delusion when he 
imagined that Apelles had been able to make use of 
a process which was not known to the other painters. 
On the other hand, we are certainly not justified, as 
has been done by many writers, in assuming a com- 
mon knowledge of the advantages of varnishing 
pictures on the part of the painters of classical times, 
an assumption based upon this quotation from Pliny, 
for Pliny begins by telling us most distinctly that 
this process of Apelles is one that nobody had been 
able to imitate. 

These remarks of Pliny's are so interesting that 
they may well be quoted in full : " Inventa ejus et ce- 
teris profuere in arte ; unum imitari nemo potuit, quod 



absoluta opera atramento inlinebat ita tenui, ut id 
ipsum, cum repercussum claritatis colorum omnium 
excitaret, custodiretque a pulvere et sordibus, ad 
manum intuenti demum appareret, sed et luminum 
ratione magna, ne claritas colorum aciem offenderet 
veluti per lapidem specularem intuentibus et e lon- 
ginquo eadem res nimis floridis coloribus austeri- 
tatem occulte daret." " His innovations in the art 
of painting have also been useful to others ; but one 
of them nobody has been able to imitate. He used 
to cover his pictures after their completion with a 
layer of atramentum so thin, that while it created a 
reflection of the brightness of all the colours and 
protected them from dust and dirt, it was itself 
visible only to one examining very closely. But the 
chief purpose was to prevent the brightness of the 
colours from offending the eye (they were as if looked 
at through talc), also that when seen from a distance 
the too florid colours might be imperceptibly chas- 

As the result, then, of our inquiry into classical 
methods of painting on panel, we have been driven 
to the conclusion that there were two recognised 
methods of painting ; that of these one was with a 
medium not described, but which in all probability 
was the Ggg medium used by the Byzantine and by 



the Italian artists of later times, but whether these 
tempera pictures were varnished or not must be left 
an open question, though there is no reason why 
they should not have been so treated. The second 
method of painting by means of beeswax we have 
already fully described. 



The methods employed in painting pictures upon 
walls during classical times have led to a great deal 
of controversy, and in spite of the many theories 
which have been advanced there are many ques- 
tions which are not yet clearly settled. It is obvious 
from what has already been said that several me- 
thods of painting on walls might have been made 
use of by the ancients. In the first place, to deal with 
the dry plastered wall surface, pigments might be 
laid upon it with any of the mediums already dis- 
cussed. Egg, gum, or glue could well have been 
used. And we have already seen that the wall-paint- 
ing in Egypt was of this character, glue or gum being 
the medium which apparently was usually used there 
for painting on walls. In addition to this it might 
be possible to make use of wax, although the de- 
scription of the wax process already given is sufifi- 



cient to reveal the difficulties of utilising it for such 
a purpose. I f we suppose the wall surface to be suffi- 
ciently warm from climatic conditions, there would 
be no difficulty in paintingon such a wall with melted 
wax ; but where the surface of the wall had to be 
heated, the difficulties would be very great. As we 
shall find, both Pliny and Vitruvius describe such a 
heating process where walls in certain cases had to 
be varnished with wax, and therefore it is quite pos- 
sible that similar methods might be used for painting 
purposes. It is worthy of experiment how far in the 
summer the walls of Greek temples are sufficiently 
warm to enable painting with melted wax to be 
carried out. With reference to the evidence as to the 
use of wax in wall-painting, it is of a somewhat con- 
tradictory character. In the first place, Pliny states 
quite definitely that wax was not suitable for paint- 
ing on walls, and yet he himself tells us that Agrippa 
had the potters' work in the baths painted in encaus- 
tic. This seems to have been ornamental terra-cotta 
work, and it is possible that the encaustic painting 
was done upon the terra-cotta before it was placed in 
position. We also have in the accounts of the build- 
ing of the Erechtheion the entry of a sum paid to en- 
caustic painters. That encaustic was used for ceil- 
ing decoration seems clear from the statement in 



Procopius that Justinian, on restoring the imperial 
palace, had the ceilings decorated not with paintings 
in melted wax but with mosaic. If, then, by these 
statements is meant the encaustic paintingwhich we 
have already discussed, it is evident that, in spite of 
Pliny's statement that it was not suitable for walls, 
it seems to have been at any rate sometimes applied 
to them. It is, however, just possible that by encaus- 
tic painting in this case was meant a slightly differ- 
ent process which presently we shall have to discuss. 
Besides the mediums already suggested — egg, glue, 
gum, and wax — for painting upon dry surfaces, there 
was another way in which the wall surfaces could 
be treated, and that was by the method which is now 
known as buon fresco, the pigments being merely 
mixed with water and laid on the wet plaster. This 
is the process which is usually called true fresco, and 
which was so largely used by the Italian painters 
for wall decoration in the sixteenth century. There 
are also possible modifications of this : the pigments, 
although laid on the wet plaster, might be mixed be- 
fore being so laid on with a suitable medium, and 
this process might be combined with dry wall paint- 
ing ; in fact, we shall find that Cennino Cennini 
directs the painting of a wall to be finished by means 
of pigments mixed with egg, and it was only in the 

8i 6 


later and stricter school of Italian fresco-painting 
that all additions of dry colour were objected to. Not 
only were all these different methods open to the 
painter, but it is quite obvious from the beginning 
that different methods were used. I n the case of the 
Greek temples, the pigment was laid either directly 
upon the marble surface or more commonly upon 
the thin coating of plaster laid over the stone. 
Where the painting was done directly on the marble 
surface, or on the thin plaster, the process cannot 
have been that of buon fresco, which necessitates 
a surface of wet plaster which at any rate would re- 
main damp long enough for the painting to be finish- 
ed. It is not at all likely, therefore, that in the case 
of the Greek temples, where the climate is warm, 
that the very thin coat of plaster used would be suffi- 
ciently damp to be suitable for buon fresco ; and it 
is also highly probable that, whatever the process 
used by the Greeks might be, it would be equally 
suitable for the plaster and for the marble surfaces. 
In addition to this, we know that the Greek marble 
statues were coloured, and no doubt the same pro- 
cess was applied in this case also. It was customary 
in the case of the Greeks to polish their marble 
statues with wax, this polishing process being known 
as " gandsis " ; and we shall have presently to refer 



to this again. In the case of the frescoes at Knossos 
which have recently been discovered, Heaton, who 
has carefully examined them from a chemical point 
of view.hascome to the conclusion, as I have already 
stated, that they are examples of buon fresco ; and 
incidentally in this case we find that the masses of 
plaster are very thick, so that the keeping of a damp 
surface would not be so difficult. Coming next to 
the frescoes at Pompeii, and other frescoes of 
Roman origin, the painting in these cases has been 
done upon a very thick plaster ground, and on the 
whole the evidence of the experts is in favour of the 
conclusion that in these cases we are dealing with 
buon fresco. There are certain references in Pliny 
which indicate at any rate that he was quite aware 
of the painting done upon wet plaster ; and in Vi- 
truvius we have a long description of the method of 
preparing the plaster and painting upon the surface — 
a description from which, again, great controversy 
has arisen, for it is not clear whether it merely refers 
to the preparation of the colour surface upon which 
the picture was painted or to the actual picture itself, 
and this doubt is of great importance owing to the 
fact that in many of the Pompeian frescoes the whole 
of the plaster is covered with a uniform colour ground 
upon which the paintings are executed. The results 



of analysis might be expected to throw light on the 
question, but these results are not altogether con- 
clusive. I n some cases no organic binding vehicle has 
been found ; in other cases an organic binding vehicle 
has been proved to be present which, judging from 
the descriptions of the analyst, might either be egg 
or milk or glue. In the case of the Greek wall-paint- 
ings, the result of analysis has been to show an or- 
ganic binding material and the presence of wax, but 
no wax has been found in the case of the Pompeian or 
other Roman frescoes. These results, then, are quite 
sufficient to confirm what has already been said: that 
it is quite evident that there was not one recognised 
method in classical times for painting wall surfaces, 
and that there was probably a sharp distinction to be 
drawn between the methods used in Greece and the 
methods used in Rome. This distinction may have 
been very largely due to climatic considerations, the 
cooler climate found in Italy being possibly more 
suitable for genuine or buon fresco. 

We shall now proceed to consider in more detail 
the actual information given on this subject by 
Pliny and Vitruvius. This I can best do by selected 
quotations from my recent book Greek and Roman 
Methods of Painting, in which the whole subject is 
critically and fully discussed : — 



" The principal authority whom we shall have to 
consult in this matter is Vitruvius, but before doing 
so we shall consider first the statements made by 
Pliny which throw light on the subject. We have 
already noted one of these, in which he says defin- 
itely that encaustic painting is not suitable fpr walls. 
In the opening of the same chapter, which I here 
requote, he mentions certain pigments as not suit- 
able for painting on a wet surface. 

" ' Ex omnibus coloribus cretulam amant udoque 
inlini recusant purpurissum, Indicum, caeruleum, 
Melinum, auripigmentum, Appianum, cerussa.' This 
sentence is quite meaningless if it is intended to ap- 
ply to water only, but if it means a wet surface of 
lime it becomes intelligible, as many of these pig- 
ments would be destroyed by wet lime. The re- 
ference to wall-painting in the next sentence makes 
this meaning all the more probable. 

" But this chapter must be considered in conjunc- 
tion with another chapter, xxxiii. 56, where he is 
describing different varieties of ochre. One variety 
he calls marmorosum sil, and then goes on to say : 
• Hoc autem et Attico ad lumina utuntur, ad abacos 
non nisi marmoroso, quoniam marmor in eo resistit 
amaritudini calcis.' ' This and the Attic sort they 
use for high lights ; for panelled spaces none but 



the marmorean kind, because the marble in it re- 
sists acridity of the lime.' 

"If this mention of a special ochre which resists 
lime be read along with the mention of the special 
colours which do not resist a wet surface, I think 
the combined evidence shows clearly that he is 
speaking in both cases of the action of wet lime, and 
therefore is familiar with the process of painting on 
wet plaster. There is, however, another interesting 
point to be noticed in the last quotation. One of the 
arguments against the use of buon fresco in classical 
times is the large area covered at one time by many 
of their wall-paintings, as it is held that buon fresco 
involves the treatment of limited areas at a time, 
and therefore joins should be visible. We shall have 
to consider these matters presently at greater length, 
but in this chapter Pliny distinctly suggests, by the 
use of the word abacus, that limited spaces or panels 
only are painted on the wet plaster, and that con- 
sequently a pigment which could resist wet lime 
was selected for the painting of such limited areas. 
It may well have been that, while this wet painting 
was used for important decorative pictures, the 
cheaper decorative colouring round the margins was 
painted on dry plaster in a less durable manner.^ 

" ' Wiegmann holds this view : Die Malerei der Alten." 


We shall find some remarks of Vitruvius bearing on 
this point. In the meantime the evidence is clear 
and unmistakable from Pliny that he was familiar 
with the operation of painting on wet plaster. This 
does not, however, exclude the possibility of some 
medium like size being mixed with the pigments 
laid on this wet surface. 

" We shall next consider the information to be 
obtained from Vitruvius. 

" In the seventh book of his work on Architecture, 
after describmg the making of concrete floors and 
the preparation of lime, and the plastering of arches 
and cornices, he proceeds as follows, in the middle 
of the third chapter : — 

" ' When the cornices are finished, the walls are to 
be trowelled as roughly as possible, and thereafter, 
when the trowelling is somewhat dry, over it the 
directions of the sand-mortar are to be so traced out, 
that in length it must be true by the rule, in height 
by the plumb-line, and the angles by the square. 
For thus the surface of the plaster will be faultless 
for pictures. When this (first coat) is slightly dry, 
a second is to be laid on, and then a third. The 
firmer and sounder the laying on of the sand-mortar, 
the more solid and durable will the plaster-work 
be. When besides the trowelling not less than three 



coats of sand have been set out, applications of 
marble-dust-^ are to be used. This stuff is to be so 
tempered that in the spreading it does not stick to 
the trowel, but the iron comes out of the mortar 
clean. A coat of marble-dust ^ having been laid on 
and getting dry, another rather thin coat is to be ap- 
plied. When this has been beaten and well rubbed, 
another still finer is to be put on. Thus with three 
coats of sand and as many of marble, the walls are 
so firm that they cannot crack or become defective 
in any way. And, moreover, solidity being secured 
by rubbing with planes, and smoothness from the 
hardness and sheen of the marble, the walls will give 
out with great brilliance colours applied with polish- 
ings. For colours, when they are carefully laid on 
damp plaster, do not get loose, but are for ever per- 
manent, for this reason, that the lime, losing all its 
moisture in the kiln, is so dry and porous that it 
readily imbibes whatever chances to touch it, and 
solidification taking place from the mixtures of the 
various potentialities whose elements or first prin- 
ciples are brought together, the resulting substance, 
of whatever it is composed, when it becomes dry, is 
such that it seems to have special qualities peculiar 
to itself Thus plaster- work which is well executed 

" 1 I.e. marble-dust mortar." 


neither becomes rough from age nor when it is wash- 
ed does it give up the colours unless they have been 
laid on carelessly and on a dry surface. If, therefore, 
plaster-work on walls is carried out as above de- 
scribed, it will be firm, lustrous, and very durable. 
But when only one coat of sand and one of marble- 
dust are used, its thinness renders it liable to be 
easily broken, nor can it take on a proper brilliance 
from the polishings owing to its lack of substance. 
For just as a silver mirror when made from a thin 
plate gives back a wavering and uncertain image, 
but if made from a plate of solid temper takes on a 
high polish and reflects to the spectators bright and 
faultless images, so plastering, when its substance 
is thin, is not only full of cracks but also quickly de- 
cays, while that which is firmly compacted of sand- 
mortar and marble, when it has been rubbed with 
many polishings, is not only glistening but also 
clearly reflects to the spectators the images falling 
on it. Greek plasterers, indeed,use not only the above 
methods to make their work firm, but also putting 
the lime and sand together in a mortar, they have 
it thoroughly pounded with wooden staves by a 
number of men, and use it after it is so prepared. 
Hence from their old walls people cut out slabs and 
use them as panels, and those plaster slabs so cut 



out for panels and mirrors have fillets in relief round 

"We shall now consider the information to be de- 
rived from this passage. 

"In the first place, the instructions for preparing 
the plaster surface are perfectly clear and definite. 

"In the second place, whatever doubt there may 
be about the translation of line 3, line 4 can only be 
translated as meaning that the pigments are to be 
laid on the wet lime. 

"In the passages after line 4 there is a most inter- 
esting attempt to explain the way in which the lime 
and pigments ultimately form a homogeneous whole. 
If, instead of speaking of the lime losing its moisture, 
Vitruvius had said losing its carbonic acid, the pas- 
sage might with this emendation have been written 
by a modern chemist describing the scientific basis 
of buon fresco. I do not understand why this most 
interesting passage has been condemned as obscure. 

"In the next place, it is to be noted that Vitruvius 
does not speak of this as the only method of wall- 
painting, but as the most durable method, and con- 
trasts it with the results obtained by painting on a 
dry surface. 

^ Further information about ancient mortars will be found in 
St. Sophia by Lethaby and Swainson. London, 1894. 



" We have here definite evidence that painting on 
dry walls was also customary, in which case some 
medium like glue would doubtless be used, and this 
goes a long way to explain the conflicting conclu- 
sions of investigators and chemists. 

" Vitruvius in effect tells us that he is familiar with 
painting on dry walls, necessarily with some bind- 
ing medium, and with painting on wet lime, and he 
regards the wet-lime painting as the more perman- 
ent. He would not have come to this conclusion 
without a wide experience of both methods. 

" We have next to consider whether, in painting on 
wet plaster, any medium such as glue was intro- 
duced. No such medium is mentioned by Vitruvius, 
and we are therefore bound to conclude that it was 
absent, until chemical analysis or carefully conducted 
experiments prove the contrary. There is no neces- 
sity for its introduction in buon fresco. As I have 
already pointed out, no conclusive evidence is to be 
derived on this point from Pliny. 

" I have already discussed the references in Pliny 
and Vitruvius to the mixing of glue with black, and 
have shown that they do not prove the use of glue 
as a medium, as they are capable of quite a differ- 
ent and equally plausible explanation. 

"A further study of this chapter shows clearly that 



this method of fresco-painting was very different 
from the method used in the time of the Renais- 
sance, or to-day, as there are frequent references to 
the polishing of the surface during the process. 
Herr Berger was, I believe, the first to point out the 
significance of these polishing processes. In order 
to understand the meaning of these passages, we 
shall have to consider more clearly the nature of 
buon fresco itself. 

" When the pigment is flooded over the wet sur- 
face of the plaster, the particles settle into the hol- 
lows of the surface, bathed in a solution of lime. As 
this solution of lime becomes carbonated and pre- 
cipitated by the carbonic acid of the air, the par- 
ticles of pigment are packed round with the precipi- 
tated carbonate, so that the holding of the pigment 
to the plaster is more of the nature of a mechanical 
than a chemical process. 

" Moreover, lime is so slightly soluble in water, and 
the carbonating of the lime is so slow a process, that 
each time the surface is flooded with water, fresh 
unaltered lime is dissolved and brought to the sur- 
face of the plaster, for many days. 

" There is no need, therefore, for the immediate 
painting of a surface as soon as the last layer of 
plaster is put on, though, on the other hand, it is as 



well that the plaster should be kept damp, in order 
to keep a soft bed beneath the pigments, into which 
they can become more or less incorporated. If this is 
done there is no reason why a large surface should 
not receive its final coat of plaster and then be paint- 
ed on in a leisurely manner, as long as, by means of 
damp cloths or occasional sprinkling over with water, 
it is prevented from getting too hard. The particu- 
lar technique, therefore, adopted by the Renaissance 
painters, a small portion at a time receiving its final 
coat of plaster and then being painted on, is not of 
the essence of the buon fresco process. 

"The Roman plaster was not only very thick [up 
to 5 inches], but the numerous coats were to be put 
on before the last coats were completely dry. 

" Such a mass would hold the contained water for 
some time, and could easily be kept damp if neces- 
sary, while the painting could be proceeded with in 
a leisurely manner. 

" 1 1 is next necessary to consider carefully the state- 
ments made in Vitruvius about polished surfaces. 
Ashe does not direct the addition of any foreign sub- 
stances, we must first try whether such a polished 
surface can be produced by the methods he describes. 

"In order to test this I had a series of shallow 
wooden trays made, into which I introduced first a 



layer of lime and sand, and then laid on this, when 
partially dry, two layers of marble dust and lime, in 
the proportion of two of marble dust to one of lime. 

" While the final coat was quite wet it was subjected 
to the process familiar to plasterers of 'closing in.' 
That is to say, it was worked repeatedly on the sur- 
face with the long, straight, slightly rounded steel 
edge of the plasterer's trowel, the trowel being held at 
an angle to the surface of about forty-five degrees. 
This closed-in surface, although inside a building, 
took several days to dry. As it got drier and firmer the 
working of the surface with the rounded edge of the 
trowel was repeated, by drawing it across with quick, 
firm strokes. Ultimately we obtained a dry, hard, 
compact surface with the appearance of polished 
marble. This satisfied me that, in so far as uniform 
plaster surfaces are concerned, the polished surface 
described by Vitruvius can be got without the intro- 
duction of any material beyond lime, marble dust, 
and water, although great technical skill is doubtless 
wanted, and great expenditure of time and patience, 
to produce a satisfactory result. It is, however, evi- 
dent from his account that such polished plaster sur- 
faces were highly prized, and were not the work of 
the everyday plasterer. 

' ' The next experiments were made with pigments. 


Micrvpftofogrnph in three ctflours of portion of 

Roman fresco, shoeing Eg;yptian Frit irnbedtfrd 

into lime and fragments of marble dust 


' ' I had had the opportunity of examin ing some por- 
tions of Roman fresco obtained some years ago by 
a friend from the Palatine. One of these was coated 
with vermiHon,^ another with red oxide of iron, and 
a third with the blue Egyptian frit. In the case of 
the vermilion, and to a great extent in the case of 
the oxide of iron, the coating of pigment appeared 
homogeneous under the microscope. But in the 
case of the coarse particles of the copper frit, which 
had to some extent weathered off, it was evident 
that the particles were imbedded in the plaster 
and flush with the particles of marble dust. In 
order to try to reproduce this appearance another 
panel of plaster was prepared and closed in. It was 
then allowed to dry for a day before being painted 
on, and then it was painted with a thin coat of cobalt 
blue in one part — laid on so as to show the brush- 
marks and different depths of work, — with a thick 
uniform coat of vermilion in another part, and with 
yellow ochre in a third part. It was then left for 
another twenty-four hours, and the whole surface 
then pressed firmly with the flat of the plasterer's 
trowel. This could be done without any disturbance 

" 1 The plaster immediately below the vermilion was stained yellow, 
as if some wax and oil had been used. This appearance was absent 
in the other examples." 



to the painted surface, but with an evident improve- 
ment in the vividness of the colouring. On examin- 
ing under the microscope the whole surface appeared 
uniform and the pigments flush with the plaster, the 
edge of the vermilion and the edge of the plaster be- 
ing in focus at the same time, and the particles of co- 
balt blue imbedded among and flush with the par- 
ticles of marble-dust. (This pigment was selected 
because it is of a comparatively coarse grain, and 
corresponds most nearly therefore to the old Egyp- 
tian blue.) The surface was allowed to dry further, 
and then the attempt was made to polish it with the 
edge of the trowel. This was only partially success- 
ful ; in some places a polish was obtained, in others 
the pigment was disturbed owing to a want of per- 
fect smoothness in the edge of the trowel. Such a 
process of polishing does not seem, however, to be 
impossible, even in the case of a painted surface, if 
the right tools were devised and sufficient practice 
attained. But even the first stage of the process pro- 
duces a smooth surface with some degree of shine 
about it, and compacts the whole mass together. 
When dry it can be washed with water or rubbed 
up with beeswax and turpentine. 

" We shall next consider the special treatment to 
which the plaster surface was subjected in order to 



protect vermilion, according to the statements of 
Pliny and Vitruvius. 

"In the fortieth chapter of the thirty-third book, 
speaking of native vermilion, Pliny says: 'Inlitosolis 
atquelunae contactus inimicus. Remedium, ut parieti 
siccato cera Punicacumoleo liquefacta candens setis 
inducatur iterumque admotis gallse carbonibus inur- 
atur ad sudorem usque, postea candelis subigatur ac 
deinde linteis puris, sicut et marmora nitescunt.' 
' When laid on, the exposure to sun and moon is 
harmful. The remedy is : when the wall is dry 
spread on it with a brush melted Punic wax mixed 
with oil and glowing hot, and again heat it to sweat- 
ing point by placing charred gall-apples near it ; after- 
wards rub it with candles, and then with clean linen 
cloths as marble is made to shine.' And Vitruvius, 
also speaking of vermilion, says in the ninth chapter 
of the seventh book : ' But in open places, that is, 
in peristyles and loggias and the like, into which sun 
and moon can dart their bright rays, the [painted] 
part when touched by these is marred, and the 
quality of its colour being destroyed it turns black. 
Thus it was that when Faberius the notary wished, 
like many others, to have his house on the Aventine 
hill richly decorated, he covered all the walls in the 
peristyles with vermilion. After a month they be- 

97 7 


came ugly and uneven, and accordingly he bargain- 
ed with the contractors to lay on other colours in- 
stead of vermilion. But a more discerning person, 
who wishes his vermilion decoration to keep its col- 
our, should, when the wall is well polished and dry, 
lay on with a stiff brush Pontic wax melted in the 
fire and tempered with a little oil; then bringing an 
iron pan of glowing coals near to the wall, he must 
heat both it and the wall and make the wax sweat, 
and thereafter, to make the surface even, he must 
rub it with a candle and clean linen cloths, as nude 
marble statues are treated. This process is called 
•yai/wo-t? by the Greeks. The coat of Pontic wax being 
in front does not allow the play of the sun's rays or 
the sheen of the moon to take away the colour from 
such decorations.' 

" In the first place, it is evident that this is a pro- 
cess for varnishing a surface already painted, and 
not for painting a surface. There is no inconsist- 
ency therefore, as some have held, in Pliny's saying 
in XXXV. 31, ' alieno parietibus genere,' where he is 
discussing the use of wax as a medium for painting, 
and on the other hand recommending- it for varnish- 
ing an already painted surface. Mastic varnish, for 
instance, is quite suitable for varnishing pictures, 
but would make a very inconvenient and unsatis- 



factory medium to paint with. In the second place, 
both Vitruvius and Pliny confine the use of this 
process to a special purpose, namely, the protec- 
tion of vermilion, and only when exposed to direct 
sunlight. Vitruvius states definitely that it is not 
necessary where vermilion is used for interior deco- 

" This is a conclusive proof that this process was 
not a universal one. If the process had not been men- 
tioned at all, it might have been omitted by accident 
and still have been used. But to mention a process 
and at the same time confine it to a particular pur- 
pose, shows quite clearly that it was not the general 
method of treating all wall surfaces. It will also be 
noted that Vitruvius says the varnish is to be ap- 
plied 'cum paries expolitus et aridus,' clearly indicat- 
ing that the decorative treatment with vermilion 
has been executed on the wet surface, which, after 
drying, is then varnished with wax. 

" The use of the word candela has given rise to 
some difficulty. Some have suggested that it means 
that a lighted candle was used to warm the surface, 
others that a roller shaped like a candle is meant. 
Candles seem to have been known, made both of 
wax and tallow, and therefore others have said that 
the meaning is that the surface was finally rubbed 



with a wax candle and a linen cloth. Another pos- 
sible view is that a tallow candle was used for the 
final polishing. 

"Itwill be noticed also, on examining the context, 
that it is not at all clear whether the statement about 
the polishing of marble applies to the whole process, 
or merely to the rubbing with candelse and linen 
cloths. Either view would satisfy the translation. 

" I tried the experiment of polishing marble with 
tallow, with wax melted with olive oil and then 
strongly heated after being applied, and with a lump 
of solid wax alone and a linen cloth. 

" I failed to obtain a polish either by rubbing up 
with tallow or rubbing up after treatment with hot 
melted wax and oil. But I found that if the marble 
was very lightly rubbed over wtth a lump of solid 
beeswax, and then rubbed hard with a hard, rough 
linen cloth, a beautiful polish was at once obtained. 
The only precaution necessary is to avoid putting 
on too much wax when rubbing with the lump of 
beeswax. The layer is so thin that the marble is not 
in the slightest discoloured, but gets at once a glossy 
surface, which gives it depth and translucency. The 
marble used had already, of course, been smoothed 
and polished as far as was possible by merely treat- 
ing the surface of the stone itself. 



"A piece of wax, already shaped as a candle, 
would be very convenient for this purpose, being 
readily held in the hand while the end would be 
rubbed over the marble. 

"The rubbing with wax candles is thus completely 
explained, and it is evident that while in the case of 
a porous plaster surface it is necessary to fill up the 
pores with hot wax to begin with, before polishing 
with wax candles and linen, in the case of marble 
this process is not necessary, the process called 
"yactocri? being the rubbing with wax candles and 
linen alone.^ 

" In conclusion, vermilion, when exposed to direct 
sunlight, does change colour in the way described, 
and is to some extent protected by being covered 
with a glossy surface either by varnishing or in the 
way described by Vitruvius.^" 

While these experiments were being made there 
was a paper published by F. Gerlich in the Neue 
Jahrbiicher fiir das klassische Altertum, 1908, de- 

' " Pliny uses the word ' nitescunt,' therefore the process must 
give a shine. No doubt armour, to which he refers, would be pol- 
ished the same way." 

" ^ ^ Se yixwais toS &yi\/),aTos &vayKaU- rax^ y^p eforffei t^ iiI\thiov f 
rk iroXoict rZv ayaKfiiTuv ixfC'"'- ' The " Ganosis " of the Statue is 
necessary, for the vermilion with which the ancient statues are 
painted soon loses its colour.'— Plutarch, Qucesf. Rom., 287 D." 



scribingthevariousexperimentsthathave been made 
in Germany and fresh evidence collected, which 
on the whole confirms the conclusions to which I 
have here come. Recent analysis has confirmed the 
earlier chemists in their view that the Pompeian 
frescoes are free from organic material andare there- 
fore examples of the buon fresco ; on the other hand, 
it seemsevident thatthe actual paintings themselves 
stand out a little from the smooth surface of the 
plaster behind, and therefore the polishing process 
which I have dealt with in some detail cannot have 
been applied to the painted surface itself, but must 
have rather been applied to the plaster after coating 
it with colour upon which the painting was to be 
carried out. It is difficult to understand why, if this 
was so, the frescoes have proved so durable ; and 
even if a little lime may have been mixed with the 
pigments, as has been suggested, it is difficult to be- 
lieve that this would really make a durable painting, 
so that there still seems to be some doubt as to the 
exact process practised by the Pompeian painters. 
The outcome of the inquiry, however, is not with- 
out its practical value, as in the first place it reveals 
the importance of marble-dust mixed with lime for 
forming a plastering surface. The beauty of the 
surface is very remarkable, the plaster not having 



the dull appearance which one notices with ordinary 
lime plaster, or with plaster of Paris, but throwing 
off light, so that even when unpolished it has a cer- 
tain brilliancy. The pigments laid upon it are pe- 
culiarly beautiful, and are thrown up by the rich 
creamy-white ground, while in the case of smooth 
surfaces the polishing can be brought up to the point 
of ordinary marble, and in the case of painted sur- 
faces the method described, of pressing upon the 
surface with flat steel trowels, both enhances the 
brilliancy of the pictures and the bedding of the 
colour produces a smooth surface which should be 
remarkably durable and able to resist the attacks of 
time. Whether, therefore, the polishing of the sur- 
face by the process described by Vitruvius was 
carried out on the actual painted surface or not, there 
can be no doubt that we have here an actual tech- 
nical process which might quite well be used by our 
modern fresco-painters. If the directions of Vitru- 
vius are carefully carried out, and the plaster care- 
fully prepared to the proper thickness, there can be 
no difficulty in producing the desired effect after the 
surface has been properly closed by repeated work- 
ing with the trowel in the method already described. 
The finished painting then merely requires to be 
pressed so as to bring the whole surface firmly toge- 



ther, and there can be no doubt thatwithalittle prac- 
tice a certain amount even of polishing can be done. 
While such a process of wall-painting is quite un- 
suitable in a climate such as that existing in Great 
Britain, and even more unsuitable in our modern 
cities in this country because of the smoke and dirt, 
it might well be revived in other countries where 
the smoke is absent and in which the dampness of 
climate is not so great. 

With reference to the Greek method of painting 
on walls and statues, further experiments I have 
made have shown that beautiful effects can be ob- 
tained by painting on marble with size and then 
polishing with wax in the way already described, 
showing that we have here a method worthy of 
further investigation, and it seems at any rate quite 
possible that the encaustic painters were entrusted 
with this painting with size and polishing with 
wax, and that therefore the references to encaustic 
painting which have already been quoted do not 
mean that melted wax was the medium used. A 
large field is therefore opened up by these inquiries 
andexperimentsfor further experiment which might 
result in adding some valuable technical processes 
which might be utilised by our modern artists. In 
such countries as America, for instance, with a clear 



dry climate and smokeless cities, the use of marble 
and of marble-dust plaster and the painting of such 
surfaces might well be developed. Marble-dust 
plaster highly polished has, I believe, been already 
used in America, and the artist will find it a most 
beautiful surface on which to execute paintings. 



It is evident from the foregoing account of classical 
methods that while there can be no doubt as to the 
preparation of the wall surface and the laying on of 
the ground coat of colour, there is some doubt as 
to the actual method of painting on this ground, the 
appearance of the Pompeian paintings apparently 
showing that the painting was done on this smooth- 
ed surface and is slightly raised. If this is always 
the case, the polishing process must have been con- 
fined to the preparation of the ground, and the at- 
tachment of the colour laid on by the artist must 
have been due to the lime water dissolved from the 
still wet surface, unless lime was added to the pig- 

In the case of frescoes found at St Medard, and 
probably fourth or fifth century, Chevreul found that 
he could split off one layer of colour from another 

1 06 


below, and that they all contained chalk. He there- 
fore suggests that they were mixed with lime. 

Presently we shall have to consider in this con- 
nection the instructions given by Cennino Cennini 
and by Theophilus, butin the meantimewill continue 
to followupin order the various pieces of information 
extant. Inthe Cathedral libraryatLuccathere exists 
a very old MS. of receipts of various kinds to which 
we shall have to refer more than once, and which 
is supposed to belong to the eighth century. In 
this the following statement is made : " Ita memo- 
ramus omnium operationes quae in parietibus sim- 
plice in ligno cere commixtis coloribus in pellibus 
ictiocollon commixtum." "Thus we mention opera- 
tions with all of them on walls unmixed, on wood 
the colours being mixed with wax, on skins fish-glue 
being mixed." This sentence tells us most clearly 
what the mediums used in paintingat this time were. 
The pigments were laid doubtless on the wet plaster 
with no immixture (except water) ; wax was still used 
for panel pictures ; and fish-glue (the preparation of 
which is described by Pliny) for illuminating on 
parchment. But it is elsewhere that we obtain prob- 
ablythe most authentic record of old-world methods 
andopenup the most romantic incidentinthe history 
oftheinquiryintoancientmethodsof painting. I refer 



to the visit of Monsieur Didron to a monastery on 
Mount Athos, from which he carried away a treatise 
on painting and had also the opportunity of seeing 
fresco-painting don e by the monks. This M S. is sup- 
posed to be of the fifteenth century, and claims to be 
the teaching of a painter of the eleventh century, and 
therefore might well beheld to be of too late a dateto 
throw fresh light on classical or post- classical me- 
thods. But when the isolation of the monasteries is 
considered we have at any rate a reasonable pre- 
sumption that traditions would long remain unalter- 
ed. While, therefore, wearenot justifiedinassuming 
that a method or medium not mentioned in classical 
times, but described in theMount Athos manuscript, 
was known in classical times, yet we may regard 
processes which still seem the same as throwing 
light on older methods. Didron found the monks 
painting on walls exactly according to the directions 
given in this manuscript, usually referred to as the 
Hermeneia, from its Greek title, and the following is 
his description of what he saw. In the first place, two 
layers of lime plaster were laid upon the walls, each 
about half a centimetre in thickness. The first layer 
of plaster consisted of lime and chopped straw, and 
the second layer consisted of lime mixed with tow or 
flax or cotton, in this respect the practice evidently 

1 08 


being somewhat in agreement with the method of 
plastering adopted in the palace of Knossos, where, 
as we have seen, the plaster consisted apparently of 
lime with no addition either of sand or marble-dust. 
This plaster, after being finished, was allowed to dry 
for three days before the painting was begun. The 
drawings were then laid out by means of a compass 
with a brush attached to one arm, and the painting 
begun right away, simple washes of colour being laid 
on, followed by the necessary tints required for shad- 
ing. It is unnecessary here to describe the somewhat 
mechanical method by which the shading and tints 
of flesh and drapery were built up. These details are 
fully given by Didron, and are also to be found else- 
where. The interesting fact to be noted is that no 
medium but water was used, that the painting did 
not begin until the plaster had been drying for three 
days, and it took some five days to complete, so that 
duringthis time the fixing of the pigments depended 
upon the dissolving out of fresh lime from the sur- 
face of the plaster, which would have already been 
considered too dry for painting on according to the 
practice of the sixteenth century and of to-day. This 
is entirely in agreement both with the description 
given in the Hermeneia, the manuscript of painting 
which Didron brought away from the monastery, and 



also with what I have already said as to the false 
impression held by artists as to the rapidity with 
whichlime becomes converted into carbonate of lime 
or chalk. There can be no reason why fresh lime 
water should not be dissolved out of the surface for 
days or weeks after the lime has been attached to 
the wall. At the same time, it will be noticed in the 
Hermeneia receipt that they distinctly direct that the 
painting is to be begun before a crust has formed 
upon the surface of the lime. Mr Traquair, who has 
had the opportunity of examining many Byzantine 
frescoes in the East, and who has kindly lent me 
photographs of such frescoes of the thirteenth 
century, and of later dates, tells me that he has 
found in many cases that a fresh fresco has been 
painted over the old one, a thin coat of fresh mor- 
tar about one-eighth of an inch thick having been 
laid over the surface before a new picture is attach- 
ed. There seems to be no reason why in this case 
also there should not be sufficient lime dissolved to 
bind the pigment to the wall. Where the actual sur- 
face of the pigment is raised, obviously, above the 
surface of the wall, it is quite possible that a little 
limehas been added to the pigments in order to form 
the bindingmedium, and Theophilus, in his descrip- 
tion of fresco-painting, distinctly advises that this 



should be done. It also agrees with the description 
given by Chevreul of the frescoes at St Medard, 
though it may be noted that in the Hermeneia the 
use of chalk for mixing with the pigment is advised, 
but directions are most clearly given for avoiding 
the introduction of lime. It is significant of the Her- 
culaneum frescoes that it is stated by Winckelmann 
that on trying to wash some of the frescoes the 
painting was at once removed, leaving the polished 
underground of colour untouched. The polishing of 
the ground, whether coloured or not, is also advised 
in the Hermeneia receipt, and Didron states that 
this was done before the painting was begun on the 
plaster surface. It is evident that such a closing in 
of the surface as we have already explained would 
tend to keep in moisture longer and prevent the 
rapid evaporation of the water. If, then, we are to 
take this Byzantine tradition as of any value in con- 
nection with the classical method, there can be very 
little doubt that the process was carried on as de- 
scribed by Vitruvius : that is to say, that the clos- 
ing in and the polishing of the surface was a neces- 
sary stage ; that if the whole surface was to be made 
of a uniform colour, it was at this stage that colour 
was laid on the wet plaster, and then polished ; that 
upon this still damp and smooth surface the paint- 



ing was carried out either with water or with the ad- 
mixture of a little lime in the pigments; and that, just 
as at Mount Athos, the painting was carried out in a 
leisurely manner, there being no necessity for haste 
with a thick mass of damp plaster lying behind. 

The most important references to wall-painting 
which we next have to consider are the directions 
given in the MS. by Theophilus, supposed to be 
written about the eleventh or twelfth century. We 
shall have to consider this MS. presently at much 
greater length, but in the meantime quote his in- 
structions about painting on walls. In chap. xv. of 
the first book he directs as follows : — 

"But on a wall, fill in a drapery with ochre, a little 
lime being added to it on account of the brilliancy, 
and make its shadows either with red simply, or 
with prasinus, or from pose, which is made from the 
same ochre and green. Flesh-colour upon a wall is 
made from ochre and cinnabar and lime, and its 
pose and rose colour and light are made as before. 
When figures or likeness of other things are por- 
trayed on a dry wall, it is first sprinkled with water 
until it is completely soaked. And in this humidity 
all colours which are superposed are painted, all which 
are mixed with lime, and let them dry with the wall 
itself, that they may adhere. A colour is laid as a 



ground under lazur and green which is called vene- 
da, mixed from black and lime, upon which, when 
dry, lazur is laid in its place thinly, tempered with 
yolkofeggabundantlytempered with water, and over 
this again more thickly because of its beauty. Green 
also is mixed with succus and black." 

It is evident from this account that Theophilus 
intends painting on the wall already dry, and ad- 
vises, contrary to the Mount Athos practice, mixing 
lime with the colours. Probably a wise direction for 
an old dry wall. His reference to the use of egg for 
green and blue is very like the reference to egg 
medium already quoted from Pliny. 

The next author that we have to consider is 
Cennino Cennini, an Italian painter, who wrote a 
treatise on painting earlyin the 1 5th century. I shall 
have to refer to this much more fully later on, but 
in the meantime shall merely consider his advice 
about painting in fresco (chap. Ixvii.) : — 

"Chapter LXVII 

" The manner of painting on walls, that is, in fresco, and 

of colouring or painting the flesh of the faces of young 


"In the name of the most holy Trinity, I will now 

put you to colouring. I begin first with painting on 

113 8 


walls, and shall teach you step by step the manner 
in which you ought to proceed. When you are go- 
ing to paint on walls, which is the most delightful 
and charming kind of work that there can be, pro- 
cure, in the first place, lime and sand, both of them 
well sifted. If the lime is very rich and fresh, it will 
require two parts of sand, the third of lime. [Ac- 
cording to later authorities the lime should have 
been slaked for a year and the proportions of lime 
and sand half and half.] Grind them well together 
with water, and grind enough to last you fifteen or 
twenty days. Let it rest for some days till it be 
quite slaked ; for if any heat remains in it, it cracks 
the plaster [tnionaco^. When you are going to plas- 
ter, first sweep the wall, and wet it well — you can- 
not wet it too much ; and take the well-stirred lime, 
a trowelful at a time, and spread it over once or 
twice, till the intonaco becomes quite even on the 
wall. Afterwards, when you are going to work, re- 
member to make the surface of the mortar quite 
rough \_6ene arricciaio] with a good tooth {rasposo]. 
Then, according to the subject or figures you have 
to make, if the intonaco is dry, take some charcoal, 
and design and compose, and take every measure- 
ment carefully, first striking one line, taking the 
centre of the space, and another for the horizon. 



The perpendicular line by means of which the hori- 
zontal one is obtained must be made with a plumb- 
line. Then put one foot of the large compasses on 
the top of this line. Turn the compasses half round 
on the under side ; then put the leg of the compasses 
on the point of intersection of these two lines and 
make the other half circle above, and you will 
always find a cross on your right hand by the lines 
intersecting each other. Do the same on the left 
hand, which will give you two crosses, and the line 
between will be exactly level. Then draw with 
charcoal, as I have before directed you, historical 
pieces and figures, and arrange your spaces always 
equal. Next take a small and pointed bristle brush, 
with a little ochre without tempera, as liquid as 
water, and continue to draw your figures, shading 
them as you did with water-colours when I taught 
you to draw. Afterwards take a bunch of feathers 
and thoroughly brush away the charcoal. 

" Then take a little sinopia without tempera, and 
with a finely pointed brush mark out the nose, eyes, 
hair, and all the extremities and outlines of the 
figures, and let these figures be correctly set out in 
every measurement which helps you to realise and 
project the figures which you have to paint. Then 
make your fringes [or ornaments, yV^^z] and acces- 


series as you please. Take some of the above-men- 
tioned lime ; stir it well with a trowel till it is like 
the consistence of ointment. Then consider how 
much you can paint in a day ; for whatever you 
cover with the plaster you must finish the same day. 
Sometimes in winter, in damp weather, working on 
a stone wall, the plaster remains fresh till the next 
day ; but if you can help it do not delay, because 
when painting in fresco, that which is finished in 
one day is the firmest and best, and is the most 
beautiful work. Then spread over a coat of thin 
intonaco, and not too much, first wetting the old in- 
tonaco. Next take your large hog's-hair brush in 
your hand, steep it in clean water, beat it and wet 
your plaster with it, and then with a slip of wood as 
wide as the palm of your hand rub round and round 
and over the wetted intonaco soas to remove thelime 
where you have put too much, and put more where 
there is not enough, and thus make your plaster 
quite smooth. Then wet the plaster with the same 
brush if necessary, and with the point of the trowel, 
which must be very clean and smooth, rub all over 
the intonaco. Then place your plumb-line as usual, 
and measure as you did on the underlying intonaco. 
Let us suppose that you can paint in one day the 
head only of a young male or female saint, such as 



that of our most holy Lady. Having thus smoothed 
the lime of your intonaco, procure a glazed vessel ; 
the vessels should be all glazed and shaped like 
drinking or beer glasses, with a good heavy bottom 
that they may stand firmly and not spill the colours. 
Take as much as a bean of dark ochre (for there are 
two kinds of ochre, light and dark) ; and if you have 
no dark ochre, take light ochre ground very fine ; 
put it into your vase, and take a little black the size 
of a lentil, mix it with the ochre ; take a little bianco 
sangiovanni [lime-white] as much as the third of a 
bean, and as much light cinabrese as will lie on the 
point of a penknife ; mix all these colours thoroughly 
together, and make them flowing and liquid with 
water, without tempera. Make a sharp brush of fine 
soft bristles, which may be introduced into the quill 
of a goose, and with this brush indicate with proper 
expression the face you are going to paint (remem- 
bering that the face is divided into three parts, 
namely, the forehead, the nose, and the chin, with 
the mouth), and with your brush nearly dry put on 
this colour, little by little, which is called in Florence 
verdaccio, and in Siena bazz^o. When you have 
sketched out the form of the face, if the proportions 
or any other thing should displease you, with a large 
brush steeped in water, by rubbing over the inton- 



aco, you can efface and repair what you have done. 
Thentakea Httle verde-terra, very liquid, in another 
vase, and with a hog's-bristle brush, without a point, 
squeezed with the fingers and thumb of the left 
hand, begin to shade under the chin, and all those 
parts of the face which should be darkest — under 
the lips, the corners of the mouth, under the nose, 
and under the eyebrows, making the shade darker 
near the nose, a little on the edge of the eye towards 
the ear ; and in the same manner making out with 
judgment [sentimento] the whole face and hands, 
which are hereafter to be coloured with flesh-colour. 
Next take a pointed minever brush, and strengthen 
all the outlines of the nose, eyes, lips, and ears with 
the verdaccio. There are some masters who now, 
when the face is advanced thus far, take a little 
bianco sangiovanni tempered with water, and seek 
out the high lights and reliefs in proper order ; then 
give the rosy colours to the lips and cheeks ; then 
wash over the whole with the flesh-colours very 
liquid with water, and the colouring is done. It is 
a good plan to retouch afterwards the high lights 
with a little white. Some wash over the whole face 
with the flesh-colour first ; they go picking out with 
a little verdaccio and flesh-colour, retouching with 
a little flesh-colour, and the work is finished. This 



plan is adopted by those only who know but little 
of the art ; but do you follow the method of colour- 
ing which I shall point out to you, because Giotto 
the great master followed it. He had Taddeo Gaddi 
the Florentine for his disciple for four-and-twenty 
years, who was his godson. Taddeo had Agnolo 
his son ; Agnolo had me for twelve years, whereby 
I gained this manner of colouring, which Agnolo 
coloured with more charm and freshness than Tad- 
deo his father. 

"First take a small vase ; put into it (a tiny morsel 
is enough) a little bianco sangiovanni, and a little 
light cinabrese, about as much of one as of the other. 
Temper them very liquid with clean water ; then 
with a soft bristle-brush, squeezed between the fin- 
ger and thumb as before, go over the face when you 
have finished putting it in with verde-terra ; and 
with this red colour [rosse^^a] touch in the lips and 
the roses of the cheeks. My master was accustom- 
ed to put the colour in the cheeks nearer the ear than 
the nose, because it assisted in giving relief to the 
face, and then he softened the rosiness well into 
the surrounding colours. Then have three small 
vases, and make three shades of flesh-colour, so that 
the darkest may be darker by one-half than the ros- 
setta, and the other two each lighter than the other 



in regular gradations. Now take the little vase con- 
taining the lightest tint, and with a very soft bristle- 
brush without a point take some of this flesh-colour, 
squeezing the brush with the fingers, and pick out 
the reliefs of the face ; then take the vase contain- 
ing the middle tint of the flesh-colour, and paint 
the middle tint of the face, hands, and body, when 
you paint a naked figure. Afterwards take the third 
vase of flesh-colour, and go to the edges of the sha- 
dows, but always taking care at the contours that the 
verde-terra should not lose its value, and in this 
manner keep on softening one flesh-tint into another, 
until it is all covered as well as the nature of the work 
will permit. But mind that if you would have your 
work appear very brilliant, be careful to keep each 
tint of colour in its place, except that with skill you 
soften one delicately into the other. But seeing 
others work and practising with your hand, will make 
you perceive better than seeing it merely written. 
When you have painted in these carnations, make 
from them a tint much lighter — indeed almost white, 
and use this above the eyebrows, on the relief of the 
nose, the tip of the chin, and the upper eyelids ; then 
take a sharp-pointed pencil of minever, and with pure 
white put in the whites of the eyes, and above the 
tip of the nose and a little on the fulness of the mouth 

1 20 


\dellaproda della docca], and so touch tenderly such 
lights. Then put a little black into another vase, 
and with a brush mark out the outlines of the eyes 
above the lights of the eyes, and make the nostrils 
of the nose, and the holes within the ear. Then put 
some dark sinopia into another vase, paint the under 
outline of the eyes, the contour of the nose, the brows 
and the mouth, and shade a little under the upper 
lip, which must be a little darker than the under. 
Before you finish these outlines thus, take the said 
brush and with verdaccio retouch the hair ; then with 
the said brush put on the lights of the hair with 
white, and with a watery wash of light ochre, and a 
soft bristle-brush cover over the hair as you did the 
carnations. Markoutthe extremities of theshadows 
with dark ochre, then with a small and very pointed 
pencil of minever put on the lights of the hair with 
bianco sangiovanni and light ochre. Retouch the 
outlines and extremities of the hair with sinopia as 
you did on the face, all over. And this is sufficient 
for you for a youthful face." 

It is evident from this account that we are here 
dealing with a new technique in which, after sketch- 
ing in the figures in the wet lime, fresh plaster is 
laid over it bit by bit and finished the same day. 



This method of fresco-painting, practised by the 
great painters during the highest development of 
Italian art, is what is more strictly to be described 
as buon fresco, and has obvious differences from the 
classical and Byzantine tradition ; and no further de- 
scription is requiredof the method of fresco-painting 
as carried out in the present day. 

It will be noted that in this account a white is 
mentioned called bianco sangiovanni. The pre- 
paration of this white is thus described in chap. 
Iviii. : — 

'' Of the nature of bianco sangiovanni. 

"This is a natural white pigment, which how- 
ever requires some preparation. It is prepared in 
this manner. Take very white slaked lime, pulverise 
it, and put it into a little tub for the space of eight 
days, changing the water every day and mixing the 
lime and water well together in order that it may 
throw off unctuous properties. Then make it into 
small cakes, put them upon the roof of the house in 
the sun, and the older the cakes are the whiter they 
become. If you wish to do it quickly and well, when 
the cakes are dry grind them on your slab with 
water and then make them into cakes and dry them 
again. Do this twice, and you will see what a per- 



feet white it will become. This white must be 
ground with water, and thoroughly. It is good for 
working in fresco — that is, on walls without tempera ; 
and without this colour you can do nothing — I 
mean you cannot paint flesh, or make tints of the 
other colours which are necessary in painting on 
walls, namely, in fresco ; and it never requires any 

This pigment is of peculiar interest after what we 
have already seen of the Byzantine practice of us- 
ing chalk, of the practice of Theophilus of using 
lime, and of the chalk found in the pigments exam- 
ined by Chevreul and obtained from St Mddard. 

These cakes of lime exposed to the air would be 
very largely reconverted into chalk by the carbon- 
ic acid gas of the atmosphere, but this conversion 
would take a very long time before it became com- 

Thispigment, therefore, ofCenninoCennini would 
be superior to the lime of Theophilus, as it would be 
much whiter, and superior to the chalk of the monks 
of Mount Athos, as it would still contain free lime. 
It is in fact the ideal white pigment for the fresco- 
painter, and its use for fresco-painting should be 



Those wishing to read exactly how each tint was 

mixed must be referred to Cennino Cennini, but 

for our purpose the next chapter of importance is 

chap. Ixxii. 

"Chapter LXXII 

" The manner of colouring ivalls in secco, and in the 
proper temperas 

"Any of the colours used in painting in fresco may 
also be used in secco ; but in fresco some colours 
cannot be used, as orpiment, cinnabar, azzuro della 
magna, minio, biacca, verderame, and lacca. Those 
which may be used in fresco are giallorino, bianco 
sangiovanni, black, ochre, cinabrese, sinopia, verde- 
terra, and amatisto. Colours used in fresco must be 
made lighter with bianco sangiovanni, and if you 
wish the greens to preserve their green tint, make 
them lighter with giallorino ; when you would have 
them take the colour of sage, add bianco. Those 
colours which cannot be used in fresco must be made 
lighter by the addition of biacca, giallorino, and 
sometimes orpiment, but orpiment is very rarely 
used ; indeed I think it superfluous. To make a light 
blue, take three of the same kind of small vase as I 
directed you to use when speaking of the carnation 
tints and cinabrese, and prepare them in the same 
manner, except that where you then used bianco, 



you should now use biacca, and temper them all. 
Two sorts of tempera are good, but one is better 
than the other. The first tempera consists of the 
white and yolk of an egg, into which are put some 
cuttings of young shoots of a fig tree ; beat them 
well together ; then add some of this tempera mod- 
erately, neither too much nor too little, to each of the 
vases, like mixing half wine with half water ; then 
work with your colours, either white or green or red, 
as I directed you in fresco-painting ; and you will 
proceed with your draperies in the same manner as 
you did in fresco, with a careful hand, waiting, how- 
ever, till it (the plaster) is dry. If you use too much 
tempera, suddenly the colour will crack and peel off 
the wall. Be wise and skilful. Remember, before 
you begin to work, if you wish to make a drapery of 
lake, or of any other colour, take a clean sponge, and 
having mixed the white and yolk of an egg with 
about two porringers full of clean water, and mixed 
them well together, with the sponge squeezed half 
dry pass this tempera over the whole of the space on 
which you have to paint in secco, and ornament in 
gold, and then colour freely as you please. The sec- 
ond kind of tempera is the yolk of the egg only ; 
and you must know that this tempera is of universal 
application on walls, on panels, and on iron, and you 

I 25 


cannot use too much of it, but be wise, and take a 
middle course. Before we proceed further, I would 
have you paint a drapery in seccoin the same manner 
as you did in fresco, with cinabrese. Now I will have 
you make one of ultramarine blue. Take the three 
vases as usual ; into the first put two parts azure and 
the third biacca ; into the third, two parts biacca and 
one part azure: mix them and temper themas I have 
directed you. Then take the empty vase, that is to 
say, the second ; put into it an equal quantity from 
each of the others, and stir all well together with a 
hog's-bristle brush, or, if you like, a minever brush 
blunt and firm ; and with the first colour, that is to 
say, the darkest, go round the outlines, marking out 
the darkest folds. Then take the middle colour and 
lay the first tint of these dark folds, and mark out 
the light folds of the light side of the figure. Then 
take the third colour, and lay the flat tint of the light 
folds which come on the lighted side, and unite them 
with each other, softening and laying in the flat tints 
as I show you how to do in fresco. Take the lightest 
colour, add to it some biacca with tempera, and put 
on the high lights of the folds of the light part. Then 
take a little pure biacca, and retouch a few of the 
highest lights as the nude shape of the figure re- 
quires. Afterwards with pure ultramarine pick out 



the darkest folds and outlines, in this way retouch- 
ing \leccando, lit. licking] the drapery according to 
its situation and colours, without soiling or mixing 
them one with another except to soften them. And 
in this manner use lake and all other colours with 
which you work in secco." 

The pigments mentioned here as safe for use on 
wet plaster are giallorino, bianco sangiovanni, black, 
ochre (yellow ochre), cinabrese( red ochre with lime), 
sinopia (red ochre), verde-terra (terre verte), ama- 
tisto (haematite) ; that is to say, with the exception of 
giallorino, merely black, white, and red, yellow, and 
green ochres. Giallorino is the pigment afterwards 
calledNaples yellow, but in the timeof CenninoCen- 
nini and later seems to have been a native yellow 
pigment found in Mount Vesuvius, which was after- 
wards imitated by a fusion of compounds of lead 
and antimony. The artificial pigment is not to be re- 
commended for use in fresco. 

The remainder of the chapter explains how the 
difficulties of this limited palette are to be overcome 
by painting with &^g on the dry surface. It will be 
noted that we have mentioned here as a medium the 
mixture of egg and fig-tree juice described by Pliny 
for medical purposes. In the later development of 



fresco in Italy, however, such painting on the dry- 
surface was not regarded as the highest develop- 
ment of the art, and consequently wefindthatVasari, 
in his introduction on technique to his Lives of the 
Painters, gives the following directions about fresco 
(Miss Louisa S. Maclehose's translation, p. 221) : — 
" TAe Fresco Process 
" Of all the methodsthatpaintersemploy, painting 
on the wall is the most masterly and beautiful, be- 
cause it consists in doing in a single day that which, 
in the other methods, may be retouched day after 
day, over the work already done. Fresco was much 
used among the ancients, and the older masters 
among the moderns have continued to employ it. 
It is worked on the plaster while it is fresh, and must 
not be left till the day's portion is finished. The 
reason is that if there be any delay in painting, the 
plaster forms a certain slight crust, whether from 
heat or cold or currents of air or frost, whereby the 
whole work is stained and grows mouldy. To pre- 
vent this the wall that is to be painted must be kept 
continually moist ; and the colours employed there- 
on must all be of earths and not metallic, and the 
white of calcined travertine. There is needed also 
a hand that is dexterous, resolute, and rapid, but 
most of all a sound and perfect judgment ; because 



while the wall is wet the colours show up in one 
fashion, and afterwards when dry they are no longer 
the same. Therefore, in these works done in fresco 
it is necessary that the judgment of the painter 
should play a more important part than his drawing, 
and that he should have for his guide the very great- 
est experience, it being supremely difficult to bring 
fresco work to perfection. Many of our artists ex- 
cel in other kinds ofwork, that is, in oil or in tempera, 
but in this do not succeed, fresco being truly the 
most manly, most certain, most resolute and durable 
of all the other methods, and as time goes on it con- 
tinually acquires infinitely more beauty and harmony 
than do the others. Exposed to the air, fresco throws 
off all impurities, water does not penetrate it, and it 
resists anything that would injure it. But beware of 
having to retouch it with colours that contain size 
prepared from parchment, or the yolk of egg, or gum, 
or tragacanth, as many painters do, for besides pre- 
venting the wall from showing up the work in all clear- 
ness, the colours become clouded by that retouching 
and in a short time turn black. Therefore, let those 
who desire to work on the wall work boldly in fresco, 
and not retouch in the dry, because, besides being 
a very poor thing in itself, it renders the life of the 
pictures short, as has been said in another place." 

129 9 


It will be noted that fresco white is lime, and is 
no longer the bianco sangiovanni of Cennino Cen- 
nini. It is evident from these accounts that while 
the method of fresco-painting had changed consider- 
ably, the tradition of using lime, either pure or partly 
calcinated, is an old one, and it is therefore highly 
probable that it was so used in the Pompeian frescoes 
and was the origin of the chalk found in the St 
Medard frescoes by Chevreul. 

The use of pure chalk at Mount Athos is to be ex- 
plained by the enormous excess of lime already pre- 
sent in the walls. 

It is evident from these quotations from Cennino 
Cennini and Vasari that the method of fresco-paint- 
ing during the great period in Italian art was quite 
different from the classical or the Byzantine method. 
The already dry plastered wall was wetted with 
water and covered with a thin plaster at the most 
not more than half a finger in thickness, composed 
of fine sand and lime which had been slaked in 
water for twelve months, in the proportion of one 
of lime to two of sand. Fine river sand was pre- 
ferred for this purpose. According to the practice 
in Cennino Cennini's time, a complete sketch of 
the final fresco was drawn upon the wall, and then 
each day a small portion was plastered and the wet 



painting finished and the unpainted-on plaster cut 

In the time of Michael Angelo the practice was 
somewhat d ifferent. A complete cartoon of the fi nal 
picture was prepared on paper spread over the wall. 
This picture was then cut up into numbered squares 
of convenient size for one day's painting. The 
plaster wall was thoroughly wetted the night before, 
and next morning the thin plaster laid on, the out- 
lines of the design marked through the paper on the 
wet surface with a point, and then the painting 
finished. All authorities agree that if the painting 
is not finished the same day, a kind of skin forms on 
the plaster, and the colouring gets spotty. This is 
probably due to the rapid drying of the thin layer. 
The experiments I have made on properly closed-in 
marble-dust plaster with a thick backing (about one 
inch in my experiments) of still damp plaster behind 
reveals no such peculiarities. The colour is brilliant 
and fresh on the creamy white glistening surface, 
whether laid on one day or the next. 
-- — If — to return to the sixteenth-century practice — 
the painting was not complete in one day, the plaster 
had then to be allowed to dry and the picture finished 
in sdcco with size or egg. Such finishing was depre- 
cated, butwas evidently frequently found necessary. 



1 1 is also evident from Cennino Cennini's account that 
there was difficulty in his time at any rate, about a 
suitable blue, as he mentions no blue in his list of 
pigments to be laid on the wet lime. In the chapter 
dealing with Cennino Cennini's pigments it will be 
found that he was familiar with two blues — ultra- 
marine, from lapis lazuli, and blue carbonate of cop- 
per ore. Of these, there is no reason to suppose that 
ultramarine is not perfectly safe to use on wet plaster, 
and it was therefore probably on account of its being 
so expensive that it was used sparingly on the finish- 
ed dry wall where necessary with egg. The copper 
ore was not likely to stand the action of wet lime, 
and all knowledge of the Egyptian fritseems to have 
disappeared. In writers of the sixteenth century, 
however, another blue is mentioned, smalto, which 
is, as they say, "a glass," and which they recommend 
for use on the wet lime. This blue came from Ger- 
many, and the modern smalt from the same source 
is a glass coloured blue with cobalt. We have seen 
that the use of cobalt in glazes was known in Egyptian 
times, but there is no trace of a cobalt glass being 
used asapigment. There seems to be some doubt as 
to whether this smalto of the sixteenth-century paint- 
ers was always or from the beginning coloured with 
cobalt, or whether in some instances it was a re- 



newal of the old Egyptian frit coloured with copper. 
At any rate, whether coloured with copper or cobalt, 
if properly made it should have been quite suitable 
for putting on the wet lime, and as durable as the 
old Egyptian frit has proved. The fading of the 
blue in many old Italian frescoes is probably due to 
unsuitable blues, like the native copper ore, or in- 
digo, having been used. The modern artist, with 
oxide of chromium greens (viridian) and cobalt blue, 
is much better equipped for fresco-painting than 
Cennino Cennini or Michael Angelo. 

The only attempt to revive the classical method of 
which wehave record is to be found in commentaries 
on Vitruvius by Guevara, written in Spanish about 
1 550, and in the directions for plastering by Alberti, 
1452. Guevara was, a great antiquarian and seems 
to have travelled widely, and his situation at the 
court of Charles the Fifth and Philip the Second 
gave him plenty of opportunities for study and for 
collecting information. He gives a very complete 
account of the directions of Vitruvius, and dwells 
on the importance of thick coats and careful polish- 
ing, and suggests that when marble cannot be ob- 
tained white pebbles can be ground up, and he 
criticises the methods of fresco-painting of his time 
and gives directions for keeping the wall damp. 



The directions given by Alberti are also of great 

He advises three plasterings, the first rough pla- 
ster containing pit sand and pounded brick the 
size of acorns, and attached to the wall by driving 
bits of flint between the stones of the wall to make 
a rough grip to the surface ; then a second rough 
coat, made with river sand ; and then the final coat, 
on which the painting is done, which need not be 
more than half a finger's-breadth in thickness. A 
white stone should be used instead of sand. This 
white stone is, he says, found in quarries, consist- 
ing of marbly veins which resemble alabaster but 
are neither marble nor gesso, and which sparkle 
when pounded. He directs the lime to be worked 
up again and again for at least three months with 
plenty of water, and well pounded and mixed with 
the sand. When in proper condition it should 
not stick to the trowel. The third coat is to be 
laid on the still wet sand coat, and well smoothed 
and rubbed till it shines like glass. He also says 
that the final surface can be treated with wax and 
mastic driven in by heat or polished with a litde 
soap ; and then discusses the casting of small fig- 
ures and objects in relief. There is then only a 
brief reference to painting on this surface, which 



he says may be done in fresco, secco, or with Un- 
seed oil. 

Leon Batista Alberti wrote De re Mdificatoria 
about 1452, and deals principally with architec- 
ture. It is evident that he is considering the methods 
of preparing fine plastered surfaces rather than the 
technique of wall-painting ; and while his methods, 
whichare based on Vitruvius,wereprobably followed 
for such purposes, they do not seem to have influ- 
enced the recognised buon fresco technique. 

The polishing with soap is interesting, as it cor- 
responds to the modern Italian stucco lustro process 
of making imitation marble in which Herr Berger 
believes he has found the ancient method of wall- 
painting. The bianco sangiovanni of Cennino Cen- 
nini seems to have been replaced by well-slaked 
calcined travertine. This would probably not be 
quite so pure and opaque a white, but would equally 
well serve to cement the pigments to the wall. The 
extraordinary facility obtained in this kind of paint- 
ing can be measured by the following quotation 
from Vasari : — 

" Amico Aspertino painted with both hands at 
once, holding in one hand a brush filled with light 
colour and in the other one filled with dark ; but 
what was more remarkable and laughable was that 



he bound round his waist a leather strap to which 
hung his gallipots of tempered colours; and he look- 
ed like the devil of St Maccario with all his phials 
hanging round him, and when painting with his 
spectacles on his nose, it was enough to make the 
very stones laugh, especially when he began to talk, 
for he talked enough for twenty persons, and he 
loved to say the strangest things in the world." 

The modern practice of fresco, which is closely 
copied from the sixteenth-century methods, is fully 
described by James Ward in his Fresco-Painting, 
and practised with great perfection by Sir Frederick 
Leighton in his frescoat South Kensington Museum. 
The directions given by Mr Ward are scientifically 
sound except in two respects. For the final coat he 
advises three-quarters of sand to one-quarteroflime. 
This seems to me too high a proportion of sand to 
make a durable surface. Both Pacheco (1641) and 
Palomino ( 1 7 1 5) recommend half and half Cennino 
Cennini ^\\ki fresh lime recommends one-third lime 
to two-thirds sand. In his list of pigments he ex- 
cludes yellow ochre for quite an inadequate reason, 
more especially as he includes raw sienna. Yellow 
ochre is absolutely permanent and without injurious 
effects of any kind. He furthermore replaces it by 
cadmium yellow. There are two objections to cad- 



mium yellow. One is that unless prepared by most 
particular methods it is fugitive. Most of the pale 
cadmiums in the market are fugitive, and only orange 
cadmium and certain special preparations are re- 
liable. In the second place, cadmium yellow strikes 
too high a colour key, if the rest of the work is to 
be done in earth colours, and spoils the dignity and 
harmony of the work. 

He should also include among his greens terre 
verte. This was the favourite green of the old 
masters in fresco-painting ; and though most of the 
terre verte sold is an imitation, it is still possible to 
obtain the genuine green, which has just the quali- 
ties wanted in fresco. On the whole, vermilion is also 
better excluded, leaving on the ideal palette lime 
white, the blacks, the yellow ochres and raw siennas, 
light or Venetian red, burnt sienna and Indian red, 
the opaque and hydrated oxides of chromium (virid- 
ian), cobalt greens and blues, and the umbers if de- 
sired. The umbers are not necessary, and are never 
mentioned among fifteenth- and sixteenth-century 
pigments. If necessary a far larger rangeof tint from 
red to violet can be got in oxides of iron (Venetian 
and Indian red) than are supplied by the artist's 
colourman. A fresco-painter should therefore askto 
be supplied with the whole range. 



With these additions and corrections Mr Ward's 
book is a thoroughly reliable manual for those who 
wish to practise the buon fresco of the sixteenth cen- 
tury, and containsone valuable suggestion unknown 
to the older painters, namely, the introduction of as- 
bestos into the plaster to bind it together. The 
beautiful and probably more permanent classical 
methods require careful workingout in practice from 
the hints already supplied. 

The following quotations from Mrs Merrifield's 
translation of the actual text of Alberti are of value 
for those engaged in permanent plasterings. 

He observes (lib. vi. ch. ix.) " that in all plaster- 
ings three kinds, at least, of intonachi are required. 
The first is called rinzaffato, and its use is to ad- 
here very closely to the wall, and to hold firmly the 
other two intonachi which are laid upon it. The use 
of the last intonaco is to receive the polish, and the 
colours and lineaments, which make the work pleas- 
ing. The use of the middle intonaco, which is now 
called arricciato, is to obviate any defects both in the 
first and in the last intonaco. The defects are as 
follows : — If the two last coats, namely, the arric- 
ciato and the intonaco, are caustic, and, so to speak, 
astringent, as the rinzaffato ought to be, they will, 
on account of their crudity, show many cracks as 



they dry. And if the rinzaffato is mild, as the in- 
tonaco should be, it will not adhere sufficiently to the 
wall, but will fall off in pieces. The more coats of 
it are given, the better will the surface receive the 
polish and be enabled to withstand the effects of the 
weather. I have seen some of the more ancient 
specimens which had nine coats, one upon the other. 
It is necessary for the first of these to be rough, con- 
taining pit sand and pounded brick, the pieces of 
which should not be too small, but as big as acorns, 
or in pieces the size of the finger, and sometimes the 
size of a palm. For the arricciato, river sand is best, 
being less liable to crack ; this arricciato should also 
be rough, because the coats which are to be laid on 
afterwards will not adhere to smooth surfaces. The 
last coat must be very white, like marble ; in fact, 
very white pounded stone should be used instead of 
sand, and it will be sufficient for this coat to be half 
a finger's-breadth in thickness, because, if it is made 
too thick, it dries with difficulty. I have seen some 
persons, who, in order to save expense, do not make 
this coat thicker than the sole of a shoe. The ar- 
ricciato must be mixed according as it is nearer to 
the first, or to the second coat. In the masses of 
stone, in stone-quarries, there are found certain 
veins, very much resembling transparent alabaster, 



which are neither marble nor ^^esso, but of a certain 
middle nature, between the one and the other, and 
which are very apt to crumble. When these are 
pounded, and used instead of sand, they sparkle like 
shining marble. In many places are seen sharp 
points projecting from the wall, in order to hold the 
intonachi ; and time has shown us that these are 
better made of bronze than of iron. I approve very 
much of those who, instead of nails, insert between 
the stones certain pieces of stone, or flints, so as to 
project ; but, for this purpose, a wooden mallet must 
be used, and the fresher and rougher the wall is, the 
better it will hold the rinzaffato, the arricciato, and 
the intonaco ; therefore, if, while building, and while 
the work is being done, you apply the rinzaffato, al- 
though thinly, you will cause the arricciato and the 
intonaco to adhere to it very strongly — so as never 
to separate. You may carry on any of these pro- 
cesses during the prevalence of the south wind ; but 
if you apply the intonacoWsvX^ the north wind blows, 
or during severe cold, or great heat, the intonaco will 
immediately become rough or uneven. 

" Slake the lime with clear water in a covered 
trough, and with so much water that there may be 
a great excess above the lime ; then stir it well with 
the spade, kneading and working it thoroughly; 



and let it be thoroughly slaked and kneaded, which 
may be known by the spade not meeting with any 
lumps or clods. The lime is not considered to be 
mature in less than three months. That which is 
good must be very soft and viscid ; because, if the 
trowel put into it comes out dry, it proves that it has 
not had enough water to slake it completely. When 
you mix it with the sand, or with any powdered ma- 
terials, work it again and again with great labour ; 
and continue to work it until it almost froths. The 
ancients were accustomed to pound in a mortar the 
materials they required for the intonachi ; and they 
tempered the mixture so that it might not adhere to 
the trowel when they were laying it on the wall. 
Upon the coat which has just been put on, and while 
it is still wet and soft, another coat must be laid, and 
care must be taken that all these coatings may dry 
together, and at the same instant. They must be 
smoothed and made even with smoothing boards, 
floats, and other similar things while they are yet 
soft. If the last coat of pure white be well rubbed it 
will shinelike a looking-glass; and if, when the same 
is nearly dry, you anoint it with wax and mastic, 
liquefied with a very little oil, and then heat the wall, 
so anointed, with a chafing-dish of lighted charcoal, 
or with an iron, so that it may soak up the ointment, 



it will surpass marble in whiteness. I have found by 
experience that such intonachi never cracked, if, in 
making them, the moment the little cracks begin to 
appear they are rubbed down with bundles of twigs 
of the wild mallow, or of wild broom. But if, on any 
occasion, you have to apply an intonaco in the dog- 
days, or in very hot places, pound and cut up, very 
finely, some old rope, and mix it with the intonaco. 
Besides this, it will be very delicately polished if you 
throw on it a little white soap, dissolved in tepid 
water. If it is too greasy, it will become pale. 

" Small figures of stucco may be executed very 
expeditiously by casting from hollow moulds ; and 
the hollow moulds may be obtained from rilievos, 
by pouring liquid gesso over them. When they are 
dry, if they are anointed with the composition which 
I have mentioned, they will have a surface like 



After the works of Pliny there is very little infor- 
mation to be found as to the painting processes until 
we come to a manuscript which has been already 
quoted from and is in the library of the Cathedral of 
Lucca, known as the Lucca Manuscript, and which 
has been reproduced somewhat incorrectly by Mura- 
tori in his work on Italian Antiquities. The only 
other two references of earlier date have also been 
already mentioned — viz. the description in the The- 
bes papyrus of a painting medium, and the reference 
to the use of drying oil for varnish by the physician 
Aetius. I do not propose to dwell here upon the 
information contained in the Lucca Manuscript be- 
yond repeating one sentence which is of consider- 
able importance as indicating what methods were 
in use at that time : — 

" Ita memoramus omnium operationes quae in 



parietibus simplice in ligno cere commixtis coloribus 
in pellibus ictiocoUon commixtum." 

" Thus we mention operations with all of them, 
on walls unmixed, on wood the colours being mixed 
with wax, on skins fish-glue being mixed." 

It is evident from this quotation that painting 
upon walls in buon fresco and painting upon wood 
with wax was still customary, while fish-glue was 
the medium used for painting upon parchment. The 
Lucca Manuscript is also of interest because it con- 
tains the first receipt for the preparation of artificial 
vermilion, and also contains one or two receipts for 
varnishes. The greater part of the Lucca Manu- 
script is repeated in the Mappcs Clavicula, a manu- 
script of the twelfth century, and another very im- 
portant and interestingmanuscript of about thisdate 
is the Sckedula Diversarum Ariium of Theophilus. 
It has been edited by Hendrie, and has since also 
been published at Vienna in Eitelberger von Edel- 
berg's Quellenschriftenfur Kunstgeschichte. Later 
than these we have the manuscripts which were trans- 
lated by Mrs Merrifield — viz., Eraclius, Alcherius, 
and the book of Peter, St Audemar, all included in 
the manuscripts of Le Begue, the Sloane MS., the 
anonymous Bernensis, and the Strassburg MS. We 
have not space to consider all these manuscripts in 



detail, with the exception of Theophilus ; but it will 
be of some interest to pick out from them certain 
receipts which throw light upon the methods em- 
ployed during the Middle Ages, and later for paint- 
ing and illuminating. The first of these receipts of 
special interest is the one for the preparation of real 
ultramarine, which we find given in the manuscript 
of Le Begue ; but it is not mentioned in the MS. by 
Theophilus to which reference has already been 
made. As already stated, there is no evidence that 
the preparation of ultramarine from lapis lazuli was 
understood in classical times. The amount of actual 
colouring matter to be found in lapis lazuli is very 
small, and if the stone is pounded down it merely 
appears to be of a light grey. It is possible by float- 
ing and fine grinding repeatedly carried out to ulti- 
mately separate the ultramarine or real colouring 
matter from the rest of the stone, but the process is 
tedious and difficult. Ultramarine when finally ex- 
tracted is a remarkable chemical compound, contain- 
ing soda, silica, alumina, and sulphur. It has long 
been a puzzle to the chemists to understand exactly 
its constitution, and many experiments have been 
made with the aim of clearing up what compounds 
it contains. It can, however, be prepared artificially, 
and the artificial manufacture of ultramarine by 

145 10 


roasting together these substances is now carried on 
on a large scale in many places, and the artificial 
ultramarine so produced is used for ordinary paint- 
ing purposes and as an artist's pigment. It is not, 
however, quite so subtile in colour as the real ultra- 
marine, being somewhat crude and violet in tint, 
while the real ultramarine is a most delicate and 
perfect blue. It is seldom to be seen in modern pic- 
tures, as it is a very expensive pigment and can be 
replaced by other blues. But for purely decorative 
treatment of a surface, such as illuminated manu- 
script, itisquestionable whether any blue could really 
replace it, although native copper blue, which has 
already been described, comes very near it in beauty. 
The receipt for preparing it, given by Le Begue, is 
similar to receipts to be found in other manuscripts, 
and must have been the recognised process for its 
preparation. It is almost exactly the same as the 
receipt shortly to be quoted from Cennino Cennini, 
so need not be quoted here. 

While dealing with the question of pigments, we 
have to consider very fully what lakes were used 
during these times, and it is only here that we find 
very much to add to the description of pigments 
which has already been given in the classical part 
of the book. The materials for preparing lakes were 



very much the same as before, with the addition of 
dye-woods such as sandal- or Brazil-wood. Yellow 
lakes were prepared from citron bark, from weld, 
and from Persian berries, but these materials were 
probably made use of for the same purpose in classi- 
cal times. It is rather in the actual detailed receipts 
which we now obtain for the first time that fresh light 
is thrown upon the processes which were made use 
of, and also in the replacing of opaque by transpar- 
ent lakes. Before going further and quoting these 
receipts, there are one or two points of interest to 
be noted about them. In the first place, it should 
be noted that madder is seldom referred to, the re- 
ceipts for the preparation of red lakes being nearly 
all for the preparation of lakes from kermes or 
from dye-woods, or from red cloth from which the 
dye was extracted. It is, of course, possible that 
where the red cloth was used the dye may have been 
madder. After the discovery of an Egyptian madder 
lake and the distinct references to it by Vitruvius, 
it is curious to find the absence of such reference in 
these treatises of the twelfth, thirteenth, and four- 
teenth centuries. The next point to be noted is that 
these lakes without exception are fugitive when ex- 
posed to light, and would be rejected from the modern 
artist's paint-box upon that account. We are there- 



fore faced with the puzzling problem of how such 
lakes, when used by the early painters, could have 
beenso permanent as they haveproved to be. There 
are many pigments to be seen not only upon illumi- 
nated manuscripts which have, of course, not been 
exposed to the light, but also upon pictures of the 
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, which could only 
have been produced by means of lake, and which 
have stood remarkably the test of time. Among 
other things there is a pink seen in Fra Angelico's 
pictures which I have never been able to detect any- 
where else, and it is very difficult to tell from what 
pigment it is produced. I cannot help suspecting 
that the permanency of these lakes in many cases 
shows that madder lakes were actually in use, but 
possibly prepared in many cases after the Egyptian 
receipt, and that this, at any rate, is one explanation 
ofthe durability of these pigments where theyappear. 

The question of the preparation of lakes will, how- 
ever, require a chapter to itself, and in the meantime 
we shall proceed to the more detailed consideration 
of the most interesting ofthe existing MSS., before 
that of Cennino Cennini, namely, the Diversarum 
ArtiuTn Schedula of Theophilus. 

While it is true so little information has come 
down to us of painting methods between the first 



and the eleventh and twelfth centuries, yet it must 
not be supposed that these centuries had been ster- 
ile of invention, and that no new improvements and 
discoveries had been made. 

While the Roman Empire was breaking up in the 
West, it continued to exist in the East until the 
Mohammedan conquest, and this period saw the rise 
and development of Byzantine art. Nor were the 
sister arts and sciences necessarily stagnant. The 
discoveries of the alchemists of Alexandria became 
the inheritance of their Mohammedan conquerors, 
and under the Arabs learning and civilisation rapidly 
progressed, and schools were established at Bagh- 
dad, Alexandria, Cairo and Cordova. Charlemagne 
had not neglected the decoration of the cathedrals, 
and in the quiet monasteries of Ireland, far re- 
moved from the turmoils of Europe, the monks were 
bringing to perfection the art of illuminating manu- 
scripts. Moreover, the learned monastic orders were 
everywhere growing stronger from year to year, 
and bringing together all the knowledge of the past 
under the shadow of the Church, and the eleventh 
century had seen the rise of the universities, true 
children of the classical schools of philosophy. 

The first manuscript, therefore, which we shall 
have to consider comes to us from the monasteries, 



where every craft was practised by the monks for 
the glory of God. For, besides the pursuit of agri- 
culture and other useful crafts, the monks devoted 
themselves more especially to the artistic crafts, in 
order that the house of God might be richly em- 
bellished and the people taught the truths of Chris- 
tianity and the lives of the saints through pictorial 
representations. Dedicated to a life of poverty and 
possessing no individual property, and looking to 
a future life for their reward, they devoted every 
thought and faculty to the one pious purpose, and 
out of this grew the exquisite art of illumination, the 
perfection of Gothic architecture, the craft of paint- 
ing on panel and on wall, and the glories of stained 
glass. Even when the art of painting ceased to be 
carried on by the monks and became the object of 
the professional artist, the skill in preparing certain 
pigments still remained in the monastery, and the 
artist himself engaged in sacred pictures at first pre- 
served towards his craft the religious feeling by 
which the monks had been inspired. 

There is no blasphemy, therefore, no thought of 
irreverence, in directing the measurement of time 
while a pot of colour is boiling by the repetition of 
paternosters. The decoration of the church was it- 
self an act of prayer, and all that appertained to it, 



such as the preparation of a pigment, was therefore 
an act of devotion. When, therefore, we come to 
examine the MS. of the monk Theophilus, an un- 
known inhabitant of some German monastery, we 
find this spirit pervades the whole, and is beauti- 
fully expressed in the prefaces by which each book 
dealing with some artistic craft is introduced. Of 
these the preface to the third book, dealing with 
the working of metals, is the most beautiful, and 
is worthy of quotation as one of the most perfect 
revelations of the thought and feeling of a monk en- 
gaged in artistic crafts in a medieval monastery. 

Nothing is known of Theophilus, but it is pro- 
bable from internal evidence that he travelled far 
and wide, even as far as Constantinople, to collect 
his receipts, and his elaborate defence of the duty of 
decorating the house of God is perhaps an answer 
to the iconoclasts, and the persecution of the artists 
in the eighth and ninth centuries, begun under Leo 
the I saurian. His work is divided into three books, 
the first of whichdeals with painting, the second with 
glass manufacture, and the third with work in the 
metals, and the title of the MS. is " Diversarum Ar- 
tium Sckedula, by Theophilus, called also Rugerus." 

Before considering briefly the book dealing with 
painting, I shall quote in full the whole of the 



beautiful preface to the third book as a revelation of 
the attitude towards art and religion of a monk of 
the Middle Ages. For the following translation of 
it I am myself responsibile, as the rendering given 
by Hendrie does not quite satisfy me. Since mak- 
ing my version I have read with pleasure the trans- 
lation by Mr Coulton in his Medieval Garner. 

" Preface to the Third Book of ' Diversarum Artium 
Schedula,' by Theophilus 

"David, of special excellence among the prophets, 
whom God foreknew and predestined before time 
was, and whom, because of his simple and humble 
mind, he chose as one after his own heart, and made 
a prince over his own people, and strengthened him 
with his holy spirit that he might rule with the no- 
bility and prudence worthy of so great a name ; with 
all his mind intent on love of his Maker, spoke these 
among many other words, ' Domine, dilexi decorem 
domus tuse.' And it is lawful for a man of such 
authority and such breadth of understanding to 
speak of the habitation of the celestial host in which 
God rules with inestimable brightness over the 
hymns of the celestial choirs as a house ; towards 
which indeed his very bowels yearned, saying : 
' Unam petii a Domino, hanc requiram, ut inhabi- 



tern in domo Domini omnibus diebus vitse meae' ; 
or as the sanctuary of a faithful breast and purest 
heart in which verily God dwelt ; a refuge for which 
the same glowing desire again breathes forth in 
prayer, 'Spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis, 
Domine. ' N evertheless, it is certain that he longed to 
make beautiful the earthly House of God, the place 
of prayer. For he made over to Solomon his son 
almost all the treasures in gold and in silver, in brass 
and in iron, of the House, of which he himself had 
desired with the most ardent passion to be the 
author, a privilege denied to him because of the fre- 
quent spilling of human though hostile blood. For 
he had read in Exodus that God had given to Moses 
the command to build the tabernacle, and had chos- 
en by name the masters of the work, and had made 
them full of the spirit of wisdom, understanding, and 
knowledge for the designing and making of things 
in gold and silver, in brass and precious stones 
and wood, and in every kind of craftsmanship ; 
and through devout meditation he knew that God 
was graciously pleased with such furnishings, which 
he designed to be put together under the guidance 
and influence of his Holy Spirit ; and he believed 
that nothing of this kind could possibly be brought 
to pass without the divine impulse. 



"Therefore, beloved Son, do not hesitate, but 
with abundant faith believe that the Spirit of God 
has filled thy heart, since thou hast furnished the 
House in so comely a manner and with so many di- 
verse works of art ; and lest perchance thou shouldst 
be distrustful, I will clearly and reasonably prove 
that whatsoever of craftsmanship thou art able to 
learn, to comprehend, or to invent is gifted to thee 
by the favour of the sevenfold spirit. 

"Through the spirit of wisdom thou knowest that 
all created things proceed from God, and without 
him nothing is; through the spirit of understanding 
thou art become capable of invention, in whatsoever 
order, variety, or measure thou wouldst exercise 
it on various works of art ; through the spirit of 
counsel thou hidest not the talent gifted to thee 
by God, but with all humility labourest openly, and 
teachest loyally, showing everything to those de- 
sirous of learning ; through the spirit of ghostly 
strength thou dost shake off all slothful lethargy and 
completest with abundant force whatever thou hast 
diligently begun without delay ; through the spirit 
of knowledge with which thou hast been endowed 
thou controllest thy invention from an abundant 
heart, and that which flows out in perfect form from 
thy well-stored mind thou boldly usest for the good 



of all ; through the spirit of true godliness thou dost 
direct the time, the manner, and the quantity of thy 
work ; and lest the vice of avarice and greed should 
creep in, thou dost fix the price of thy labours by a 
pious consideration of the virtues of moderation ; 
through the spirit of the holy fear thou dost reflect 
that thou art able to do nothing from thyself, and 
that thou canst neither possess nor will anything 
except through the gift of God ; but, believing, 
trusting, giving thanks, thou ascribest to divine 
compassion what thou knowest, what thou art, and 
what thou art able to be. 

"Havingdrawn near, O dearest Son, to the House 
of God with a confidence inspired by these cove- 
nants with the virtues, thou hast adorned with so 
much grace both walls and ceilings with different 
works and with different colours, setting forth the 
semblance of the paradise of God blooming with 
all kinds of flowers, green with grass and leaves, 
cherishing the souls of the saints with crowns of 
varied worth. Thou hast in a measure disclosed to 
the beholders everything created praising God its 
maker, and hast caused them to proclaim him won- 
derful in all his works. Nor can the eye of man 
decide upon which work first to fix his glance ; if he 
beholds the ceilings, they bloom like tapestries; if he 



regards the walls, they have the splendour of para- 
dise ; if he looks up to the wealth of light from the 
windows, he admires the marvellous beauty of the 
glass and the variety of that glorious work. And if 
perchance a faithful soul beholds an image of our 
Lord's Passion revealed in drawing, he is pierced 
with compassion ; if he beholds what torments the 
saints have endured in their own bodies and what 
rewards reaped in the life of eternity, he lays hold on 
the lesson to observe a better life ; if he beholds the 
joy of heaven and the torments of the flames of hell, 
he is inspired with hope through his own good deeds 
and is shaken with terror by reflecting on his sins. 

" Act therefore now, virtuous man, happy before 
God and men in this life, happier in the future life, 
through whose labour and zeal so many sacrifices are 
offered up before God ; henceforth be kindled by a 
more splendid genius, and begin with the full exer- 
tion of thy mind those things which are still want- 
ing among the utensils of the House of the Lord. 
These are the chalices, candelabra, incense-burners, 
vials, pitchers, caskets of sacred relics, crosses, mis- 
sals, and other things which are required as needful 
and expedient for the ceremonies of the Church. 

"If thou wouldst fashion these, thou must begin 
in the following order." 



The book on painting which has already been re- 
ferred to, consists of forty chapters, and deals largely 
with the mixing and laying on of tints for producing 
various effects. The first fourteen chapters are thus 
occupied, the fifteenth chapter containing the direc- 
tions for painting on walls which have been already 
quoted. In this chapter on wall-painting yolk of 
egg is also mentioned as a medium. 

In the seventeenth chapter instructions are given 
for preparing a glue by taking cheese, washing it, 
grinding it fine, and making into a paste with quick- 
lime. This glue was used for fixing together wooden 
objects, such as pieces of panel. Such panels, after 
smoothing, are directed to be covered with the un- 
tanned skin of a horse or ass, cemented on with the 
cheese-glue. After this skin is dry, ordinary glue is 
prepared by boiling down the cuttings of skin and 
stag-horn. This glue is then mixed with chalk or 
slaked gypsum and painted on the skin in a series 
of thin coats. When dry it is smoothed and polished 
with the herb called shave-grass. 

The directions for preparing a panel for painting 
on are very interesting and thoroughly sound. We 
shall consider later the modifications on thispractice 
to be found later, during the best time of Italian 
tempera painting. 



"Chapter XVII 

" Of the tablets of altars and doors and of the glue 
of cheese 

' ' The tabletsof altars, or of doors, are first carefully 
fitted together with the joining instrument which 
carpenters or vat-makers use ; they are then joined 
with the glue of cheese, which is made in this man- 
ner: — Soft cheese is cut very small, and is washed 
with warm water in a small mortar with a pestle un- 
til, being frequently poured in, the water comes 
away pure. Then this cheese, compressed by the 
hand, is put into cold water until it hardens. After 
this it is very finely ground, with another piece of 
wood, upon a smooth wooden table, and in this state 
it is again placed in the mortar, and is carefully 
ground with a pestle, water mixed with quicklime 
being added until it is made as thick as lees. The 
tablets of altars fastened together with this glue, 
after they are dry, so adhere together that neither 
heat nor humidity are able to disjoin them. They 
should afterwards be smoothed with a planing iron, 
which, curved and sharp inside, has two handles, 
so that it may be drawn by both hands (with which 
doors and shields are shaved), until they are made 
perfectly smooth. They are then covered with the 



untanned skin of a horse, or ass, which is soaked in 
water ; as soon as the hairs have been scraped off, 
some water is squeezed from it, and, thus moist, it 
is superposed with the curd glue. 

"Chapter XVIII 
" Of glue of skins and stag-horns 
"The above being carefully dried, take cuttings of 
the same skins, dried in like manner, and carefully 
cut them up into small pieces, and taking the stag- 
horns, broken very small with a smith's hammer 
upon an anvil, place them together In a new pot, 
until it is half full, and fill it up with water, and so 
apply fire until a third part of this water be evapor- 
ated, so, however, that it may not boil. And you will 
thus try it : moisten your fingers with this water, 
and if, when they have become cool, they adhere 
together, the glue is good ; but if not, cook it until 
they do adhere together. Then pour this glue into 
a clean vessel and again fill the pot with water, and 
simmer it as before ; and do this four times. 

"Chapter XIX 

" Of the white ground of gypsum 

"After this take gypsum, burnt like lime, or chalk 
with which skins are whitened, and carefully grind 



it with water upon a stone, then place it in a baked 
earthen vessel, and, pouring in some glue made 
from skins, place it over the coals, that the glue may 
liquefy, and in this manner paint over the skin very 
thinly with a pencil, and when it is dry, paint some- 
what thicker, and, if needed, paint a third time. 
When it is quite dry, take the herb called shave- 
grass which grows like a bulrush, and is ragged ; 
when you have gathered it in summer you will dry 
it in the sun, and will rub this whitening with it un- 
til it is made everywhere smooth and polished.^ " 

The following are, however, the most interesting 
chapters, as they are the earliest account we possess 
of oil-painting : — 

"Chapter XX 

" Of reddening doors, and of linseed oil 

"If, however, you wish to redden panels, take lin- 
seed oil, which you make in this manner : — Take lin- 
seed and dry it in a pan over the fire, without water. 
Then put it into a mortar and bruise it with the 
pestle until it becomes a very fine powder ; placing 
it again in the pan, and pouring a little water upon 

' " But if a skin is wanted for covering tablets, they are covered 
with canvas not too new, with the same glue and in the same man- 
ner." — Cod. Guelph. et Harlei. in fine, cap. 21. 



it, make it thus very hot. Afterwards fold it in a new 
cloth and place it in the press, in which olive, or 
walnut, or poppy oil is accustomed to be expressed, 
that this also may be expressed in the same man- 
ner. With this oil grind minium, or cinnabar, upon 
the stone, without water, and paint over the doors 
or tablets, which you wish to redden, with a pencil, 
and you will dry them in the sun. Then paint them 
again, and again dry them. At last cover them over 
with that gluten which is called varnish, and which 
is made in this manner." 

This method of expressing the linseed oil agrees 
with modern practice, but no account is given of how 
to refine it or how to convert it into a drying oil. 
Such an unrefined oil would dry rather slowly, and 
the painting would therefore be the better of ex- 
posure to the sun. 

In the two following chapters two receipts are 
given for making varnishes. These receipts will 
have to be considered more fully elsewhere. 

"Chapter XXI 
" Of the varnish gluten 
" Put linseed oil into a small new pot, and add, 
veryfinely powdered, the gum which is called fornis, 

i6i II 


which has the appearance of the most lucid Thus, 
but, when broken, it yields a brighter lustre. When 
you have placed which over the fire, cook carefully, 
so that it may not boil up, until a third part is con- 
sumed, and guard against the flame, because it is 
very dangerous and is extinguished with difficulty 
if it be raised. Every painting, covered over with 
this gluten, is made both beautiful and for ever dur- 

"Chapter XXII 

" Of the same 
"Place together four stones which may be able to 
sustain the fire without flying to pieces, and place a 
common pot upon them, and put into it the above- 
mentioned gum fornis, which in Romaic is called 
glassa, and upon the mouth of this pot place a 
smaller pot, which has a small hole in the bottom, 
and lute a paste round it, so that no vapour may 
come out between these pots. Then place fire care- 
fully underneath, until this gum liquefy. You will 
also have a thin iron rod fitted to a handle, with 
which you will stir this gum, and with which you 
can feel when it is quite liquid. Have also a third 
pot nigh, placed upon the coals, in which is hot lin- 
seed oil, and when the gum is quite liquid, so that 
the iron being extracted a kind of thread is drawn 



out with it, pour the hot oil into it and stir it with the 
iron, and thus cook them together that they boil not 
violently, and at times draw out the iron and daub a 
And take care in this, that in weight there are two 
parts of oil and the third part of gum. And when you 
have carefully cooked it to your wish, removing it 
from the fire and uncovering it, allow it to cool." 

In chapter xxiv. directions are given for ham- 
mering out gold leaf, and in chapter xxv. directions 
for laying it on, which correspond closely with those 
given by Pliny. 

"Chapter XXV 
" Of laying on the gold 
" In laying on gold take the clear part of the white 
of &%%, which is beat up without water, and then 
with a pencil paint lightly over the place in which 
the gold is to be placed, and, the handle of the same 
pencil being wetted in your mouth, touch one cor- 
ner of the cut leaf, and so elevating it, lay it on with 
the greatest quickness, and spread it even with a 
brush. And at that moment you must beware of a 
current of air and refrain from breathing, because if 
you blow you lose the leaf and with difficulty re- 
cover it. When this is laid on and dried, superpose 



another upon it, if you wish, in the same manner, 
and a third likewise, if it is necessary, that you may 
be able to polish it more brightly with a tooth or a 
stone. You can also, if you wish, lay this leaf upon 
a wall, and on a ceiling, in the same manner. But 
if you have not gold, take a leaf of tin, which you 
make in this manner." 

In chapter xxvi. directions are given for the laying 
on of tin leaf and giving it a tint like gold by means 
of a saffron-tinted varnish. The leaf is finally to be 
cemented on the surface with skin glue and painted 
on with oil-paints, "grinding them carefully with lin- 
seed oil without water; and make tints for faces and 
draperies as you before made with water, and you will 
vary beasts, birds, or leaves in their colours as it may 
please you." It is evident from this that elaborate 
oil-painting was thoroughly understood. In the next 
chapter, however, we are again warned that only 
things which can be dried in the sun can be painted 

in oil. 

"Chapter XXVII 

" Of colours ground with oil and gum 
"All sorts of colours can be ground and laid upon 
woodwork, with the same kind of oil, in those things 
only which can be dried in the sun ; because each 



time that you have laid on one colour, you cannot 
superpose another upon it until the first has dried, 
which, for figures, is excessively long and tedious. 
If, however, you wish to hasten your work, take gum 
which exudes from the cherry or plum tree, and, cut- 
ting it up very small, place it in an earthenware pot, 
and pour water upon it abundantly and place it in 
the sun, or in winter upon the coals, until the gum 
has liquefied ; and mix it together with a smooth 
piece of wood. Then strain it through a cloth, and 
grind the colours with it and lay them on. All 
colours and their mixtures can be ground and laid 
on with this kind of oil, except minium and ceruse 
and carmine, which are ground and laid on with 
white of egg. Spanish green is not mixed with succus 
under the gluten, but is laid on by itself with gum 
gluten. You can otherwise mix it if you wish it." 

In chapter xxx. directions are given for grinding 
gold for illuminating books, which is afterwards to 
be mixed with fish-glue. Then come the following 
directions : — 

"Chapter XXXI 
" How gold and silver are laid in books 
"Afterwards take pureminiumandaddtoita third 
part of cinnabar, grinding it upon a stone with water. 



Which being carefully ground, beat up the clear of 
the white of an egg, in summer with water, in winter 
without water, and when it is clear, put the minium 
into a horn and pour the clear upon it, and stir it a 
little with a piece of wood put into it, and with a 
pencil fill up all places with it upon which you wish 
to lay gold. Then place a little pot with glue over 
the fire, and when it is liquefied, pour it into the 
shell of gold and wash it with it. When you have 
poured which into another shell, in which the puri- 
fying is kept, again pour in warm glue, and, holding 
it in the palm of the left hand, stir it carefully with 
the pencil, and lay it on where you wish thick or 
thin, so, however, that there be little glue, because, 
should it exceed, it blackens the gold and does not 
receive a polish. But after it has dried, polish it with 
a tooth or bloodstone carefully filed and polished, 
upon a smooth and shining horn tablet. But should 
it happen, through negligence of the glue not being 
well cooked, that the gold pulverises in rubbing, or 
rises on account of too great thickness, have near 
you some old clear of egg beat up without water, 
and directly with a pencil paint slightly and quickly 
with it over the gold ; when it is dry, again rub it 
with the tooth or stone. Lay in this manner silver, 
brass, and copper in their place, and polish them." 



Then in the following chapter we have further 
instructions for the preparation of a glue suitable 
for illuminating purposes and the directions for 
tempering colours. 

"Chapter XXXIII 
" Of every sort of glue for a picture of gold 

"If you have not a bladder, cut up thick parch- 
ment of vellum in the same manner, wash and cook 
it. Prepare also the skin of an eel carefully scraped, 
cut up and washed in the same manner. Prepare 
thus also the bones of the head of the wolf-fish 
washed and dried, carefully washed in warm water 
three times. To whichever of these you have pre- 
pared, add a third part of very transparent gum, 
simmer it a little, and you can keep it as long as 
you wish. 

"Chapter XXXIV 
" How colours are tempered for books 

"These things thus accomplished, make a mixture 
of the clearest gum and water as above, and temper 
all colours except green and ceruse and minium and 
carmine. Salt green is worth nothing for books. 
You will temper Spanish green with pure wine, and 
if you wish to make shadows, add a little sap of iris 



or cabbage or leek. You will temper minium and 
ceruse and carmine with clear of egg. Compose all 
preparations of colours for a book as above, if you 
want them for painting figures. All colours are laid 
on twice in books, at first very thinly, then more 
thickly ; but once for letters." 

The use of Spanish green (verdigris), though 
fugitive in water-colours when exposed to light, 
seems to be justified for illuminating books, judging 
by the magnificent preservation of the greens in 
many old illuminated manuscripts. 

In chapter xxxv. the tempering of "folium," 
which seems to have been a preparation of more 
than one vegetal dye, is described : — 

"Chapter XXXV 
" Of the kinds and the tempering of Folium 
"There are three kinds of folium, one red, another 
purple, a third blue, which you will thus temper. 
Take ashes, and sift them through a cloth, and 
sprinkling them with cold water, make rolls of them 
in form of loaves, and placing them in the fire, leave 
them until they quite glow. After they have first 
burnt for a very long time and have afterwards 
cooled, place a portion of them in a vessel of clay, 
pouring urine upon them and stirring with wood. 



When it has deposed in a clear manner, pour it 
upon the third folium, and grinding it slightly upon 
a stone, add to it a fourth part of quicklime, and 
when it shall be ground and sufficiently moistened, 
strain it through a cloth, and paint with a pencil 
where you wish, thinly, afterwards more thickly. 
And if you wish to imitate a robe in a page of a 
book, with purple folium ; with the same tempering, 
without the mixture of lime, paint first with a pen 
in the same page, flourishes or circles, and in them 
birds or beasts, or leaves ; and when it is dry, paint 
red folium over all, thinly, then more thickly, and 
a third time if necessary ; and afterwards paint over 
it some old clear of egg, beat up without water. Do 
not grind purple or blue folium, but pour it with the 
same tempering, without lime, into a shell, and stir 
it with wood, and when it has stood for a night, the 
next day use it in what manner you wish, paint 
over it with clear of egg. Paint over also with glaire 
of egg, draperies, and all things which you have 
painted with folium and carmine. You can likewise 
preserve the burned ashes which remain, for a long 
time, dry." 

Preparations of this kind are often referred to, and 
seem to have been obtained as follows: — An extract 



of the vegetal dye having been prepared, a piece 
of linen was alternately soaked in the dye and in 
alum. In this way the dye was loosely mordanted 
on to the linen, but could be easily extracted with 
an alkaline solution. Such transparent vegetal 
pigments must have been very fugitive, and have 
probably perished, at any rate wherever exposed to 
light. " Folium " itself seems to have been more 
strictly the juice of the Croton tinctorium, which 
would change in colour according as the medium 
was acid or alkaline. 

Then follow receipts for making "salt-green," a 
mixture of verdigris and subchloride of copper, of 
Spanish green or verdigris, of cinnabar or vermil- 
ion, of ceruse (white lead) and minium (red lead), 
all of which receipts agree with the methods of 

Finally, in chapter xl. the preparation of ink is 
described. The ink of classical times was, we have 
seen, lampblack ground up with gum arable and 
water; the ink of Theophilus is the modern ink, that 
is, an infusion of tannin and sulphate of iron or green 
vitriol. It will be noted that in the opening chapters 
nothing is said of the medium to be used; but in the 
course of the narrative, mediums of yolk of &<gg, 
white of egg, fish-glue, parchment, cherry and plum- 



tree gum, and linseed oil are mentioned, each, how- 
ever, for a more or less specific purpose, and leaving 
it open to question whether eggwas not the ordinary- 
recognised medium if none other were mentioned. 

No mention is made of the classical medium, wax, 
except for another purpose, so that its use must have 
completely died out between the time of the Lucca 
MS. and Theophilus. 

This early and free use of linseed oil (though evi- 
dently found somewhat slow in drying) is conclu- 
sive as to the early discovery of oil-painting at any 
rate in the North. 

There is no receipt for the preparation of ultra- 
marine from lapis lazuli, the commonplace of later 



In the last chapter we have considered in some 
detail the MS. left by the monk Theophilus of the 
eleventh century, and his receipts and descriptions 
of how to prepare for painting. Those who are in- 
terested in the instructions given for mixing various 
tints for flesh, and in the books on glass and working 
in metals, must consult the original, as both are be- 
yond our province. Nor is there space here to dis- 
cuss various interesting manuscripts of somewhat 
later date, such as the Paris MS., translated by Mrs 
Merrifield, and originally brought together by one 
Le Begue in the fourteenth century. Quotations 
from these manuscripts and others will necessarily 
be made in considering the methods of oil-painting, 
the receipts for varnishes and the receipts for lakes; 
but we cannot break the main course of our narra- 
tive to consider them further here, as we must pro- 



ceed to deal with the treatise on tempera painting 
left by Cennino Cennini. The formal painting and 
sculpture, due to the Byzantine traditions, had 
begun to alter in the thirteenth century, starting 
with a revival of sculpture in the hands of Niccolo 
Pisano, of which his pulpit at Pisa (1260) is an 
example. The first examples we possess of the 
revival in painting are the Last Judgment at St 
Cecilia in Rome by Pietro Cavallini (1293), and 
the Madonna at Siena by Duccio di Buoninseg- 
na (1255-1315). In Florence the new movement 
was begun by Cimabue, who was the teacher of 
Giotto (1266-1337), the founder of the Florentine 

These artists were all painters in " tempera," that 
is to say, the medium with which their colours were 
blended was egg in one form or another ; and from 
the universality of the use of that medium the phrase 
" tempera " painters has come to mean painters with 
an &^^ medium, although the word is applied by 
the early Italian writers to any medium — oil, &g'g, 
gum, or glue — they may be discussing. This great 
school of tempera painters continued through the 
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, finally giving 
place to the oil medium, which is supposed to have 
been introduced from Flanders, and culminating 



in the painting of such masters of tempera as 
Sandro Botticelli (1447-1510) and Fra Filippo 
Lippi (1406- 1 469). 

The Annunciation, by Fra Filippo Lippi, in our 
National Gallery, probably represents the final per- 
fection possible in the medium. In fact, Eastlake, 
the author of Some Materials for a History of Oil- 
Painting, did not believe that it was a tempera pic- 
ture, suspecting some additions to the medium to 
make such technique possible. Mrs Herringham, on 
the other hand, who has now practised tempera- 
painting for many years, regards it as a perfect ex- 
ample of what tempera-painting can do. 

The two tempera pictures chosen here for repro- 
duction have been taken because they illustrate with 
great perfection the preservation of brilliant colour- 
ing in this medium. The painter of one is unknown. 
Benozzo Gozzoli, the painter of the other, was born in 
1 420, and died in 1498. He therefore belongs to the 
period when the finest work in tempera was being 
executed, and was himself a pupil of Fra Angelico 
da Fiesole, and executed many delightful works in 
fresco. The picture here selected for reproduction is 
The Rape of Helen, and is in our National Gallery. 
It is painted on wood, probably the end or cover of a 
box or cassettone such as were used for wedding gifts, 



andis in an excellent state of preservation. The per- 
fection with which the brilliant unglazed vermilion 
has been preserved is especially worthy of note, as 
vermilion has been among the suspected pigments 
since classical times, when, as we have seen, both 
Pliny and Vitruvius warn us against exposing ver- 
milion to the sun. 

To return, however, to our subject. Cennino 
Cennini was, as he tells us, instructed in the art of 
painting for twelve years by Agnolo Gaddi, the son 
of Taddeo Gaddi, the godson and pupil of Giotto, 
He was living in Padua in 1398, while his master, 
Agnolo Gaddi, died in 1396. 

The Vatican MS. of Cennino Cennini is dated 
1437, but this is probably the date attached by the 
copyist, who seems to have done his work in the 
debtors' prison at Florence, soitwas probably written 
before this date. The treatise, therefore, can be con- 
sidered as summing up, on the one hand, the teach- 
ing in painting of the fourteenth century andfound ing 
the methods of the fifteenth century, so that it gives 
us a detailed insight into the way the great school of 
tempera painters did their work. In addition, it in- 
forms us of other methods of painting, and the infor- 
mation it contains about fresco-painting has already 
been quoted. Of Cennino Cennini himself little 



is known. Vasari refers to him among the minor 
painters, but more because of his treatise than be- 
cause of his work. Vasari tells us " that Cennino di 
Drea Cennini of Colle-di-Valdelsa learned painting 
from this same Agnolo (Agnolo Gaddi), and for love 
of his art he wrote with his own hand on themethods 
of painting in fresco, in tempera, in size, and in gum, 
and besides how to paint in miniature, and how gold 
is laid on for all these different kinds of painting, 
which book is in the hands of Giuliano, a Sienese 
goldsmith, an excellent master, and a friend of 
these arts." 

No picture known to be by Cennino Cennini is in 
existence, and consequently his fame rests upon his 
treatise and not upon the actual work of his hand. 
But his treatise is not only of technical interest on 
account of his receipts and directions how to draw 
and to paint ; it is also of the greatest value as the un- 
conscious,unpremeditated revelation ofthecharacter 
and point of view of the man who wrote it, and con- 
sequently of the influence upon him of the environ- 
ment in which he lived. The preface to the third 
book of Theophilus is in itself a revelation of the 
point of view of an eleventh-century monk, but after 
all it is an exhortation addressed to the reader, and 
therefore necessarily has in it a certain artificial 



quality and tells us little of the man himself; while, 
to go to a later time than the one we are considering, 
the autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini is a most 
naive and therefore precious revelation of a robust 
blackguard of the Italian Renaissance, who, how- 
ever, still retains a deep ethical purpose in his work 
as a craftsman; but here, too, we are dealing with 
autobiography which at once involves a certain self- 
conscious pose of the author before the public. We 
are still looking for the honest diary or correspond- 
ence of a man of genius which was not written with 
an eye on posterity and the future publisher. In 
this treatise by Cennino Cennini we have the writer 
inspired simply by the desire to give information 
about his craft, and therefore his way of giving that 
information is a purely unconscious revelation of his 
personality and point of view. It is impossible by a 
few quotations to convey fully to the reader the 
delicate flavour of this treatise. While reading it we 
seem to be removed to a sunny but simply and yet 
beautifully furnished house, where our artist sits at 
work in a room with only the severest necessaries of 
his craft around him, and the symbols of his religion. 
Here we see him fullofachildlikepiety, and engaged 
in exquisite and dainty manipulation, tinting a sheet 
of vellum, or laying gold leaf on a panel with a 

177 12 


pleasure in the perfect product and a joy in its 
finished beauty. 

The very dedication of the book sets the keynote 
to the whole : " Here begins the book of the Art, 
made and composed by Cennino da Colle in the 
reverence of God and of the Virgin Mary, and of 
St Eustachius, and of St Francis, and of St John 
the Baptist, and St Anthony of Padua, and gener- 
ally of all the saints of God, and in the reverence 
of Giotto, of Taddeo, and of Agnolo the master of 
Cennino, and for the utility and good and advan- 
tage of those who would attain perfection in the Art." 

The very titles of the chapters have a perfume 
aboutthem like the scent of lavender, andthedainti- 
ness of an exquisitely bound book. For instance, 
to select at random : " How a green tint is made 
on drawing-paper and how it is tempered," " How 
to tint parchment and how to burnish it," " How to 
tint paper of a morella or purple colour," " In what 
manner you make an outline of a beautiful face or 
design on transparent paper," "In what manner this 
tin overlaid with gold can be used for the diadems of 
saints on walls," "How works in relief are executed 
on panels with gesso sottile, and how precious stones 
are affixed to them," are among the headings of 
chapters. But it is perhaps still more in the simple 



piety and quaint moralisings in the receipts them- 
selves that the most is to be found. To take this, 
for instance : — 

" How you should regulate your manner of living so as to 
preserve decorum, and keep your hand in proper con- 
dition ; and what company you should frequent ; and 
how to select and draw a figure in relief 

" Your manner of living should always be regu- 
lated as if you were studying theology, philosophy, 
or any other science ; that is to say, eating and 
drinking temperately at least twice a day, using light 
and good food and but little wine, sparing and re- 
serving your hand, saving it from fatigue, as throwing 
stones or iron bars, and many other things which 
are injurious to the hand, wearying it. There is still 
another cause the occurrence of which may render 
your hand so unsteady that it will tremble and flutter 
more than leaves shaken by the wind, and this is 
frequenting too much the company of ladies. Let us 
return to our subject. Make a pocket of sheets of 
paper glued together, or of light wood, square shap- 
ed, large enough to hold a foglio reale — that is, half 
size, and also serve for a desk to draw on. Then 
always retire alone, or with companions who are 
inclined to do as you do, and are not disposed to 
hinder your work ; and the more intellectual the 



companions are, the better will it be for you. When 
you are in churches or chapels and you begin to 
draw, consider first what space or history or figures 
you wish to sketch, and remark where the shades, 
middle tints, and lights fall ; and I must tell you 
how to shade with ink and water, to leave the 
ground of the panel for middle tints, and to use 
white for the lights." 

Or take the following from the introductory 
chapter : — 

" A humble member, then, of the art of painting, 
I, Cennino, born of Drea Cennino of the Colle-di- 
Valdelsa, was instructed in these arts for twelve 
years by Agnolo, the son of Taddeo of Florence, my 
master, who learnt the art from Taddeo his father, 
who was the godson of Giotto, and was his disciple 
for twenty-four years. 

" ThisGiotto changed the artof painting from the 
Greek to the Latin, and brought it to the modern 
style ; and he possessed more perfect art than ever 
anyone else had had. In order to assist all those 
who would approach this art, I shall take note of all 
that was taught me by my master Agnolo, and of 
that which I have proved by my own hand ; invok- 
ing first the high Omnipotent God — that is to say, 

1 80 


the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ; secondly, that 
most delightful advocate of all sinners, the Virgin 
Mary, and St Luke the Evangelist, the first Christian 
painter, and my advocate, St Eustachius, and gener- 
ally all the saints, male and female, of Paradise." 

Or take the following from the receipt for prepar- 
ing ultramarine from lapis lazuli, which we shall pre- 
sently quote in full : — - 

First the blue is described : " Ultramarine blue 
is a colour noble, beautiful, and perfect beyond all 
other colours, and there is nothing that could be said 
of it, but it will still exceed this praise." 

Then, after a long description of the complex and 
difficult mode of preparation, we have : — 

" When dry, put it into a skin or purse and rejoice 
in it, for it is perfect ; and bear in mind that it is a 
rare gift to know how to make it well. You must 
know also that it is rather the art of maidens than 
of men to make it, because they remain continually 
in the house, and are more patient, and their hands 
are more delicate. But beware of old women." 

Or take the following chapter : — 

" Showing that you should always make a habit of 

working with fine gold and good colours 
" It is usual to adorn walls with gilded tin, because 
it is less expensive than gold. Nevertheless, I give 



you this advice, that you endeavour to adorn always 
with fine gold and good colours, particularly in the 
figures of our Lady. 

"And if you say that a poor person cannot afford 
the expense, I augur that if you work well and 
give time to your work and good colours, you will 
acquire so much fame that a rich person will come 
to you to pay for the poor one ; and your name will 
stand so high for using good colours, that if some 
masters receive one ducat for painting a figure, you 
will be offered two, and your wishes be fulfilled, 
according to the old proverb — good work, good pay. 
And whenever you should not be well paid, Godand 
our Lady will reward you soul and body for it." 

Or again, after telling us how to paint the human 
face, he tells us in the next chapter, 

" Why women should abstain from using medicated 
waters on their skin 

"It might happen in the service of youthful ladies, 
especially those of Tuscany, to have to make some 
colour of which they are desirous, and use to make 
themselves beautiful, and certain waters. 

"But the Paduan women do not use them, and, not 
to give them cause for finding fault with me, and as 
it is also displeasing to God and our Lady, I shall 



be silent. But I advise you, if you desire to preserve 
your complexion for a long period, to be accustomed 
to wash yourself with water from fountains, rivers, 
or wells ; and I warn you that if you use any arti- 
ficial preparation your face will soon become wither- 
ed, and your teeth black, and in the end women get 
old before the natural course of time and become the 
ugliest old hags possible. This is quite sufficient to 
say on this subject." 

I have already quoted the opening sentences of the 
treatise, and it only remains to quote the conclusion, 
before proceeding to consider it in its purely technical 

This conclusion is as follows : — 

" Praying that the Most High God, our Lady, St 
John, St Luke the evangelist and painter, St Eus- 
tachius, St Francis, and St Anthony of Padua may 
give us grace and strength to sustain and bear in 
peace the burdens and fatigues of this world ; and 
that to whomsoever may study this book, they will 
give grace to study it well and remember it, so that 
by the sweat of their brow they may live peace- 
ably, and maintain their families in this world with 
grace, and finally, in that which is to come, in glory, 
per infinita secula seculorum." 



We shall now proceed to deal with the technical 
information to be obtained from Cennino Cennini, 
and begin by considering his directions for the pre- 
paration of panels. 

In preparing a panel for painting, it is essential 
that the wood should not warp or crack, and that 
the layer of plaster or gesso on the panel should not 
be liable to crack off. We accordingly find special 
precautions taken to guard against these dangers. 
Probably the best guard against cracking and warp- 
ing is to have thoroughly seasoned wood. This is 
not easy to secure, unless the wood has been stored 
by yourself But there is another precaution for 
small panels, given by Cennino Cennini, which is 
interesting. He advises boiling them in water, to 
prevent warping or cracking. I have made some 
inquiries into this, and I find that it corresponds 
somewhat with a modern practice, namely, the 
steaming of wood to get it seasoned rapidly. I do 
not find, however, that this practice is regarded as 
the best by carpenters. They consider that slow air 
drying is the best. Apparently, the most important 
matter is to season the panel after it is cut to its final 
shape and size. The panel should be cut in summer, 
and kept to next summer. If this is done, some will 
warp, twist, and crack, and may be rejected ; others 



will survive the test, and are then safe. The care- 
ful selection and seasoning of the wood is of the 
first importance. Cennino says little about it. He, 
probably, trusted to his carpenter to see to that for 

Having now obtained a piece of wood of suitable 
size and shape, we must next prepare it with a fine 
surface of gesso, on which thepicture is to be painted. 
Obviously, the important point now is to prevent the 
possibility of the gesso peeling off. This can best 
be prevented by thoroughly roughening the surface 
of the wood, so as to give a tooth on which the fine 
plaster can hold, just as a plasterer marks his rough 
lime with the trowel, in order to enable the fine 
lime finishing the wall or ceiling to firmly adhere. 
This, then, being the most important matter, you 
will not be surprised to hear that the intelligent 
maker of panels for painting at the present day 
carefully smooths his wood before laying on the 

Before quoting in full, as I propose to do, Cennino 
Cennini on this matter of panel preparation, I shall 
briefly refer again to the method used by the Egyp- 
tians in certain cases. The wooden coffin lids were 
prepared for painting on by being first coated with 
gesso, and it was my good fortune to be presented 



with a small crumb of such a coating by Professor 
Middleton, obtained from a coffin in the British 
Museum. There was a streak of green pigment on 
this fragment, which has already been described ; 
but with that we have nothing to do at present. 

On examining this portion of prepared surface, I 
found a thin coating of fine white plaster lying over 
a dark brown substance, resembling oil-cake in ap- 

I was somewhat troubled to make out what this 
substance could possibly be. It seemed about one- 
sixteenth inch thick, and must have lain between 
the white plaster and the surface of the wood. On 
moistening the fragment with hot water it fell to 
pieces, the binding cement or gum being dissolved, 
and then, on examining under a glass, the nature of 
this substance was revealed. It consisted of grains 
of sand mixed with wood fibres. 

The way in which the panel had been prepared 
was now sufficiently obvious. The surface of the 
wood had been rubbed and torn up with sand mixed 
with gum water. Then the whole surface had been 
smoothed down, sand, wood fibres, and all, and 
allowed to harden. Then on this curious concrete, 
bound to the wood by partially torn fibres, the fine 
white gesso had been laid. The revival of this 


method is worthy of careful consideration, and I can 
safely recommend it. It has stood the test of more 
than 3000 years. Passing, then, from this ingenious 
method, let us consider how Cennino Cennini mas- 
tered the same difficulties. 

I cannot do better than quote directly from his 
work : — 

"Chapter CXI 1 1 

"How to begin to paint pictures 
" Now we are really going to paint pictures. In 
the first place, a panel of the wood of the poplar, 
lime, or willow tree must be prepared, on which to 
paint the picture. Let it be made quite smooth. If 
it be defaced with knots, or if it be greasy, you must 
cut it away as far as the grease extends, for there is 
no other remedy. The wood must be very dry ; 
and if it be such a piece that you can boil in a caul- 
dron of clean water, after the boiling it will never 
split. Let us now return to the knots, or any other 
defect in the smoothness of the panel. 

" Take some glue \colla di spicchi\ and about a 
glassful of clean water ; melt and boil two pieces 
\spicch{\ in a pipkin free from grease ; then put in 
a porringer some sawdust, and knead it into the 
glue ; fill up the defects or knots with a wooden 
spatula, and let them remain ; then scrape them 



with the point of a knife till they are level with the 
rest of the panel. Examine if there be any nail, or 
other thing that renders the panel uneven, and 
knock it into the panel, then provide some pieces of 
tin-plate, like g'uai^rtm [small pieces of money], and 
cover over the iron with them ; and this is done that 
the rust of the iron may not rise through the "ground. 
The surface of the panel must not be too smooth. 
Boil some glue, made of parchment shavings, till the 
water be reduced to one-third of what it was at first, 
and, when put on the hands, if one hand stick to the 
other, it is sufficiently boiled. Strain it two or three 
times, put half this glue into a pipkin, add a third 
part water, and boil well together ; then, with a 
hog's-hair pencil, large and soft, pass a coat of the 
glue over the panel, or foliage, or pyxes [civori], or 
columns, or whatever you work upon, that is to be 
covered with a ground [ingessare], and let it dry ; 
then take some of your first strong glue [colla forte], 
and pass twice over your work, letting it dry well 
between each coat of glue, and it will be glued to 

" Do you know the effect of the first glue? A 
weak water or liquor is absorbed from it by thewood, 
which operates exactly as if, when fasting, you eat a 
few comfits, and drank a glass of wine, which gives 



you an appetite for dinner ; so this glue prepares 
the wood for the glue and grounds to be applied 

"Chapter CXIV 

" How to fasten linen on panels 

" Having thus spread the glue, get some linen 
cloth, old, fine, and white, and free from grease. 
Take your best glue, cut or tear this linen into large 
or small strips, soak these in the glue, and spread it 
with your hand over the surface of the panel ; re- 
move the seams, and spread it well with the palms 
of the hands, and leave it to dry for two days. And 
remember it is best to use glue when the weather is 
dry and windy. Glue is stronger in the winter. For 
gilding, the weather should be damp and rainy. 

"Chapter CXV 

" How to lay grounds of gesso grosso on the surface of 
a picture with a spatula 

" Where the panel is very dry, take the point of 
a knife like a rasp [me//o], rasp it well, and make the 
surface quite even. Then take some gesso grosso, 
that is to say, volterrano, purified, and sifted like 
flour. Put a porringer-full on the porphyry slab, 
grind it well with this glue, as you would grind 



colours, collect it, and put it on the surface of the 
pictures, and, with a very smooth and rather large 
spatula, cover the whole surface, and wherever you 
can use the spatula do so. 

" Then take some of this ground plaster (gesso), 
warm it, take a soft hog's-hair pencil, and give a 
coat on the cornices and foliage, and on the even 
surfaces with the spatula. Give three or four coats 
on the other parts of the cornices, but on the other 
level parts you cannot use too much. Leave it to 
dry for two or three days. Then take the iron rasp 
[mese//a], and level the surface ; procure some 
small iron rods, which are called rafifiette, such as 
you will find in the painters', who use several kinds 
of them. Pick out all the cornices and foliage which 
are not flat, and with these make every part of the 
surface of the ground smooth and free from knots. 

"Chapter CXVI 

" How to prepare a fine ground ( gesso sottile)for 

" You must now prepare a plaster of fine grounds, 
called gesso sottile. This is made from the same 
plaster as the last, but it must be well washed \pur- 
gata\, and kept moist in a large tub for at least a 
month ; stir it up well every day until it almost rots 



[marctse], and is completely slaked, and it will be- 
come as soft as silk. Throw away the water, make 
it into cakes, and let it dry ; and this plaster [/'^i'^o] 
is sold by the apothecaries to our painters. It is 
used for grounds for gilding, for working in relief, 
and other fine works. 

"Chapter CXVII 

" How to prepare a ground of gesso sottile on a picture, 
and how it is to be tempered 

" Having laid on the gesso grosso, rubbed down 
the surface, and levelled it well and delicately, put 
some cakes of the gesso sottile into a pipkin of 
water, and let them absorb as much as they will. 
Put a small portion of it at a time on the porphyry 
slab, and, without adding any more water to it, grind 
it perfectly. Put it then on a piece of linen cloth, 
strong and white, and wring it well to get out as 
much water as possible. When you have ground 
as much of it as you want (that you may neither 
have to make two portions of tempered plaster, 
nor to throw away any good plaster), take some 
of the same glue with which you tempered the 
gesso grosso. You must make sufficient at one 
time to temper both kinds of gesso. The gesso sot- 
tile requires less tempering than the gesso grosso; 



the reason for this is that the gesso grosso is the 
foundation of all your work, and that how much so- 
ever you press the gesso grosso a Httle water will 
still remain in it. For this reason make the same 
kind of glue for both. Take a new pipkin which is 
free from grease, and if it be glazed, so much the 
better. Take a cake of this gesso sottile, and scrape 
it fine with a knife, as you would cheese, and put it 
into the pipkin. Put some of the glue on it, and 
work the gesso with the hand as you would a paste 
for making fritters, smoothly and evenly, so that it 
may not froth. Procure a cauldron of water, and 
make it very hot, and put into it the pipkin con- 
taining the tempered gesso. Thus the gesso will 
become warm, but will not boil ; for if it should boil, 
it would be spoiled. When it is warm, take your 
picture, and a large and very soft pencil of hog's 
bristles, dipped in the pipkin, and taking up a proper 
quantity at a time, neither too much nor too little, 
spread it evenly over the level surfaces, the cornices, 
and the foliage. It is true that in doing this the first 
time you should spread and rub the gesso with your 
fingers, and hand, round and round, and this will 
incorporate the gesso grosso with the gesso sottile. 
When you have done this, begin again, and spread 
it with a brush, without touching it with the hand. 



Let it rest a little, but not so long as to dry thorough- 
ly ; then go over it again in the other direction with 
the brush, and let it dry as usual. Then give it a 
coat in the reverse direction ; and in this manner 
always keeping the gesso warm, give the panel eight 
coats. Foliage andre/tevos want less, but you cannot 
put too much on the flat. This is on account of the 
rasping down, which is done afterwards. 

"Chapter CXX 

" How to begin to smooth the surface of a panel on which 
you have laid a ground of 'gesso sottile' 

" When you have finished laying the ground 
(which must be done in one day, even if you work 
at it in the night, in order to complete it in the 
usual way), let it dry in the shade for two days and 
nights at least. The drier it is the better. 

" Tie some powdered charcoal in a piece of linen, 
and sift it over the ground of the picture. Then, 
with the feather of a hen or goose, spread this 
black powder equally over the ground, because the 
panel cannot be made too smooth, and because the 
iron with which you rub the picture is smooth also. 
When you remove it, the ground will be as white 
as milk, and you will then see whether it requires 
more rubbing with the iron. 

193 13 


"Chapter CXXI 

" How to scrape surfaces on which ^ gesso sottile' has been 
laid, and of what use the scraping is 

" Take a flat rafifietto, about as wide as a finger, 
and gently rub the surface of the cornice once; then, 
with a sharp rasp \mella arrotatd], which you must 
hold as freely and lightly as you possibly can, rub 
over the surface of the panel with a very light hand, 
brushing away the loose gesso with the feather. And 
know that this dust is excellent for removing grease 
from the pages of books [carte de librt\. 

"In the same manner rub smooth the cornices 
and foliage, and polish them as if they were ivory. 
And sometimes (for you may have many kinds of 
work) you may polish cornices and foliage by rub- 
bing them with a piece of linen, first wetted and 
then squeezed almost dry." 

The bands of old linen evidently serve the pur- 
pose of the sand in the Egyptian method. They 
afford a tooth for the plaster, and at the same time 
must help to hold the panel together, and also help 
to prevent resin rising through the gesso surface. 
Apparently linen was also used for the best coffins 
in Egypt in the same way. 

The gesso volterrano is, according to Mrs Mer- 



rifield, plaster of Paris, which was obtained from 
some gypsum quarries in the neighbourhood of 
Bologna, and Vasari gives a long account of this 
gesso volterrano in his life of Andrea Verrocchio, 
who used it to make casts of dead persons. 

It will be noted that the gypsum for the final 
coating of gesso is thoroughly slaked by keeping in 
water for some weeks. 

A very fine example of gesso work exists in the 
old cathedral church at Coire. They have there a 
box which they claim to be as old as the ninth cen- 
tury. It is entirely covered with gesso, on which a 
design in low relief has been roughly scrolled. The 
gesso has been polished so as to give the appearance 
of ivory. At the corners, where it has got chipped 
off, the ends of the linen can be seen, which has 
evidently been put next the wood, as Cennino Cen- 
nini advises. There is nothing, I think, in the whole 
of this account which could not be easily reproduced 
at the present day. I have had mahogany panels 
carefully prepared by a picture-frame maker, from 
Cennino's directions. 


Having completed the preparation of the panel, 
we can now paint upon it, or, as was usually done 



in the earlier Italian pictures, cover it completely 
with gold leaf. 

For this purpose Cennino Cennini mentions three 
mordants that can be used : one prepared from white 
of egg and Armenian bole, one a quick-drying oil- 
varnish similar to the gold size now used, and one 
prepared from garlic juice. He devotes some space 
tt) the account of gilding done with the white of egg 
medium, which I shall quote in full. The only trace 
of this method of gilding left now is the use of white 
of egg by bookbinders in gilding books. The bole 
is used in water-gilding now with parchment glue. 

"Chapter CXXXI 
" How to lay bole on panels, and how to temper it(\) 
" Let us return to our subject. When you have 
finished the relievos of your picture, procure some 
Armenian bole and try whether it be good. Touch 
your under lip with it ; if it stick to it, it is good. 
You must now learn the best tempera for gilding. 
Put the white of an egg into a very clean glazed 
porringer. Make some twigs of broom into a rod, 
and beat up the white of egg with it until the por- 
ringer is full of thick froth, which appears like snow. 
Then take a common drinking-glass, not too large 
nor too full of water, pour it on the white of egg into 



the porringer. Let it stand from night till the next 
morning, to clarify itself. Then grind the bole in 
this tempera as perfectly as you can. Next dip a clean 
soft sponge into clean water, and squeeze it dry ; rub 
lightly with the sponge (not too wet) on these parts 
on which the gold is to be laid. Then pass over it, 
for the first time, with a large pencil of minever, a 
coat of this tempered bole as liquid as water, and, 
wherever the gold is to be used (having first sponged 
the part with water), spread the bole very evenly, 
being careful not to stop, so that you may leave no 
hard edges with your pencil. Then wait a little; put 
a little more bole into your porringer, and let the 
second coat of colour have a little more body. Give 
it this second coat, and let it again rest a short time ; 
put more bole into the vase, and give it a third coat 
in the same manner, making no hard edges. Put 
more bole still in the vase, and give it a fourth coat, 
and then you will have finished laying on the bole. 
Now you may cover over your panel with a cloth, 
to keep it as much as you can from dust, sun, and 

"Chapter CXXXIV 

" How to gild panels 
"When the weather becomes ddmp and cloudy, 
and you wish to lay on any gold, place your panel 



flat on two trestles. Sweep it with a feather, and, 
with a rafifietto, pass very lightly over the ground of 
bole, and if you find any knots or roughness remove 
them. Burnish the bole very carefully with a piece 
of coarse linen. If you afterwards burnish it with a 
tooth, it cannot look otherwise than well. When 
you have thus cleaned and burnished it, put into a 
glass nearly full of clean water a little of the white of 
egg tempera; if it be quite fresh so much the better. 
Mix it thoroughly with the water. Take a large 
pencil of minever, made, as I have previously taught 
you, of the hairs of the tip of the tail. Take up your 
fine gold with a pair of fine pincers, lay it on a 
square piece of card larger than the piece of gold, 
and cut off at each corner, which you are to hold 
in your left hand, and, with the pencil which you 
hold in your right hand, wet the bole sufficiently to 
hold the piece of gold you have in your hand. Wet 
the bole equally, that there may not be more water 
on one part than on another ; then let the gold slip 
off the card, taking care not to wet the card. Now, 
as soon as the gold has touched the wet part, with- 
draw the card quickly and suddenly ; and if you 
perceive that the gold does not adhere to the panel, 
press it down as gently as you can with a piece of 
clean cotton, and in this manner gild the other parts 



of the panel ; and when you wet it, preparatory to 
laying on the second piece of gold, be careful that 
the pencil does not go so near the first piece as to 
make it wet ; and let the two pieces join, first breath- 
ing on it, that the gold may adhere where you wish 
it to unite with the other piece. When you have laid 
on three pieces, pass the cotton again over the first 
piece, and see whether any part requires mending. 
Provide a cushion as large as a brick, made of a 
smooth piece of board, covered with soft leather, 
very clean and not greasy, of the same kind as that 
of which boots are made. Stretch it very evenly, and 
fill the space between the wood and the leather with 
shreds of cloth ; spread a piece of gold evenly on 
this cushion, and with a knife cut the gold into pieces 
as you want it, to make the necessary repairs. Wet 
the parts to be repaired with a minever pencil, and, 
then, wetting the handle of the pencil with your 
lips, the piece of gold will adhere to it sufficiently to 
enable you to apply it on the part to be mended. 
When you have laid as much gold on the level sur- 
face as you can burnish in one day (for which I shall 
give you directions when you have to gild cornices 
and foliage), be careful to collect the small pieces of 
gold, as those masters do who are economical, so 
that you may save the gold as much as you can, be- 



ing sparing of it, and always covering the gold you 
have laid on with a clean handkerchief. 

"Chapter CXXXV 
" What stones are proper for burnishing gold 
" When you mean to burnish gold, you must pro- 
cure a stone called lapis amatisto, which I will show 
you how to prepare. If you have not this stone, 
sapphires, emeralds, balas rubies, topazes, rubies, 
and garnets are still better for those who can afford 
the expense, and the finer the stone the better it is 
for the purpose. The teeth of dogs, lions, wolves, 
cats, leopards, and generally of all carnivorous ani- 
mals, are equally good. 

"Chapter CXXXVII 

" How to burnish gold, and what to do if you cannot 
burnish it when ready for burnishing 

" You must now burnish gold ; for the time is 
come that you should do so. It is true that, in winter, 
you may gild whenever you please, during damp 
and cloudy weather. In summer it will take one hour 
to lay on the gold; another to burnish it ; but should 
the weather be too damp, and, from some cause or 
other, you want to burnish it, keep it in a place where 
it is not exposed to heat and air ; but if it be too 



dry, keep it in a damp place, always covered, and, 
when you would burnish it, uncover it carefully, for 
the smallest scratch will blemish it. Put it in a cellar, 
at the foot of the casks, and it will be ready to bur- 
nish ; but should you be prevented from burnishing 
it for eight or ten days or a month, take a very clean 
handkerchief or a towel, lay it over your gold in the 
cellar, or wherever it may be ; then take another 
handkerchief, dip it in clean water, wring, and 
squeeze it very dry ; open it, and spread over the 
first handkerchiefthat you laid over the gold, and the 
gold will then be in a proper state for burnishing." 

We have here a complete account of gilding with 
white of egg. Further on, he gives the following 
receipt for another mordant : — 

"A perfect mordant for walls, pictures, glass, 
iron, and ever other thing may be made as follows : 
With your oil either boiled on the fire or baked in 
the sun in the manner before directed, grind a little 
biacca (white lead) and verdigris ; and when you 
have made it flow like water, add a little varnish and 
boil altogether for a short time." 

The varnish mentioned here is probably an oil 
varnish, as the varnishes described at that time are 
all oil varnishes. The verdigris would make it dry 



very quickly, and, consequently, he directs later on 
that no verdigris is to be added if it is not to be used 
at once. He also states that some fear the verdigris 
injuring the gold, but he has not found it do so. The 
rest of the directions are the same as those now 
given for gilding. It is of interest to note that, 
though he especially says the leaf must be thick for 
the white-of-egg gilding, he recommends very thin 
leaf for this gilding. 

For miniature work he recommends the use of 
a little gesso sottile (one-third) mixed with a little 
white lead and sugar of " candia." This is made into 
cakes and dried in the shade. This is ground with 
white of egg for use. "And you must know that you 
may write letters with a pen dipped in this size." 
In another receipt he adds also a little Armenian 

The late Professor Middleton had an illuminated 
MS. of the sixteenth century, in some parts of which 
thegoldhad come off. Underneath is a hardpolished 
substance raised above the level of the parchment. 
Apparently in this case Armenian bole had been 
used. Besides gold leaf, silver leaf and tin leaf were 
used. Tin leaf is recommended as superior to silver 
leaf, as it does not blacken. Cennino Cennini re- 
commends the use of the tin leaf for glories of saints 



in wall-paintings. His directions are a little obscure, 
but apparently it is stuck on with varnish. He also 
recommends gilding it before sticking it on. 

This use of tinfoil is of special interest. At a later 
date it seems to have been used largely instead of 
gold, being coated with a yellow varnish called auri- 
petrum. Several receipts for auripetrums are given 
in the old MSS. The Spanish leather hangings 
which are so famous have been prepared this way. 
I have examined some portions of some old hangings 
in the possession of the late Mr Cobbold, of Felix- 
stowe. A design had been stamped on the leather, 
then it had been covered with tin leaf Some parts 
of the tin leaf had been varnished with a yellow var- 
nish and other parts painted, the rich bronze gold 
colour being so produced. As an experiment I have 
coated canvas with size, then with gold size, and then 
with tinfoil. The tinfoil has then been polished 
and varnished with an oil varnish coloured with 

The receipts for the preparation of auripetrum are 
somewhat obscure. Several are given in the MS. 
of St Audemar, which has been translated by Mrs 
Merrifield. In these the oil varnish used is coloured 
by saffron, aloes, the inner bark of black plum, or 
dragon's-blood. These substances are all easily dis- 



solved in melted pine balsam, which can then be 
diluted with boiled oil and turps. 

The reintroduction of varnished tinfoil for decor- 
ative work is, I think, to be recommended. Very 
beautiful and durable results are, I think, easily ob- 

Dragon's-blood is easily obtainable, but varies 
very much in quality ; the best that can be now ob- 
tained being sent over in sticks about eight inches 
long, each stick being encased in some native fibre. 
The dragon's-blood in lump, as usually sold, is very 
inferior. The dragon's-tears referred to by Charles 
Reade, in his essay on violins, are unfortunately no 
longer to be had. I once knew of one sample, in a 
herbalist's window in East London, and it was not 
for sale. 

There is no great difficulty in having panels pre- 
pared for painting according to the method herein 
described, as the practices of the best gilders ap- 
proach very closely to Cennino Cennini's receipts. 
It is perhaps not generally known that gold leaf is 
translucent, and that the light passing through is 
blue-green in colour. The laying of gold on white 
gesso on the ground for the picture must, I think, 
have had an important effect on pigments above it, 
corresponding to a green ground to a certain extent. 



1 1 must, however, be remembered that many pictures 
were painted directly on the white gesso ground 
without the interposition of gold leaf. 

We have now dealt with the preparation of pa- 
nels for painting, with gilding, and with the use of 
tinfoil and coloured varnishes. The receipts are simi- 
lar to those at present in use, and if equally good 
and durable results are not obtained it seems to be 
due more to want of care and of taking time than to 
serious defects of method. We come next to the 
consideration of the pigments used during the best 
period of art, with the view of carefully examining 
their nature and properties. Here we are met by 
several difficulties. 

In the first place, we are embarrassed by the 
number and variety of pigments mentioned. I can- 
not attempt to deal with more than a few of them 
in this chapter, and must select those of apparent- 
ly the most importance. In the next place, it is in 
many cases difficult to identify an old pigment, or to 
recognise the same pigment under different names. 
Much ingenuity, however, has been expended on 
this subject, and, on the whole, with tolerably satis- 
factory results. 

In the third place, a large proportion of the old 
pigments are fugitive, and we are consequently some- 



what embarrassed by this fact, as it throws upon 
us the burden of picking out those of real value from 
among the many described. 

It is of importance, in this connection, to re- 
member the various uses to which the pigments were 
put. Roughly, these may be described as : painting 
in fresco, painting in secco on walls, painting in secco 
on panels, painting in oil, and illuminating MSS. 

Now, of these, the most destructive to pigments 
is fresco-painting, and consequently few pigments 
could with safety be used, while, on the other hand, 
many pigments might safely be used for illuminat- 
ing that could not be used for anything else. Pro- 
tected from damp and from the action of light, 
preserved between closed leaves of vellum, and 
probably never touched by sunlight, many fugitive 
pigments might be safely used. 

It is, furthermore, impossible to consider this sub- 
ject of the durability of pigments by itself, apart from 
the mediums used to paint with. When we come to 
consider the question of vehicles, we shall find that 
certain pigments may safely be used with some 
vehicles that cannot be used with others. There is 
another very pertinent question that can be asked : 
How many of the old works of art have perished 
completely from natural decay ? Are not those we 



possess the successful experiments among many 
failures? It is a common remark to say of an old 
master that it is as fresh as the day it was painted. 
There are very few that really have this appearance. 
If carefully examined, the colours have, in many 
cases, dulled and faded. The pigments still look 
bright owing to their contrast one with another, 
though often, when examined separately, they ap- 
pear quite dull. 

Unfortunately, too, there are pigments which, 
while quite legitimate under old conditions, are no 
longer suitable for use in the polluted air of modern 
cities. It is also of importance to consider climatic 
conditions in this connection. For instance, it is an 
easy problem to paint permanent pictures in the dry 
climate of Egypt, a very difficult one to do the same 
in England. All these matters have to be taken in- 
to consideration, giving us a very complex problem 
to be dealt with. 

Let us begin by considering the list of pigments 
mentioned by Cennino Cennini. This list we can 
add to afterwards, but it forms an important and use- 
ful introduction. They are as follows : — 

Red. — Sinopia (red ochre), cinabrese (red ochre 
and white), cinnabar, minium, amatisto (haematite), 
dragon's-blood, lake. 



Yellow. — Ochre, giallorino (Naples yellow), or- 
piment, risalgallo (realgar), zafferano (safifron), 

Green. — Verdeterra, verde azzurro(copper green, 
malachite), verderame (verdigris). 

JVAtle.— (Chalk) bianco sangiovanni, (white lead) 

Blue. — Azzurro della magna (azurite), azzurro 
oltre marino (ultramarine). 

Black. — A soft black stone. Black made of the 
tendrils of young shoots of the vine. Black made 
of the skins of almonds, or the kernels of peaches. 

Let us take these pigments in order, and consider 
them one by one. 

Sinopia. — This is one of the many names under 
which red ochres are mentioned, whether native or 
prepared by roasting yellow ochres. They have 
been used from the earliest times, and are perfectly 
reliable for all kinds of work. There is no need to 
dwell longer on them. 

Cinabrese. — This pigment is described by Cen- 
nino as being a mixture of red ochre with chalk. 
This is very commonly done now in order to pre- 
pare a bright red, and is a perfectly harmless 



Cinnabar (vermilion). — This pigment is known 
in two forms, native and artificial. Cinnabar, or sul- 
phide of mercury, is one of the commonest ores of 
that metal, and is occasionally found in pieces of a 
fine red colour when ground. Probably it was first 
used in this form. A much finer pigment is, how- 
ever, obtained by subliming sulphur and mercury in 
a covered crucible, when the cinnabar is found at 
the top in crystalline masses. This method of pre- 
paration must have been known from very early 

The preparation of mercury is described by Theo- 
phrastus, 300 B.C., and the early alchemists, such as 
Geber, were familiar with many of the compounds 
of mercury, so that there can be little doubt that they 
were also familiar with the artificial preparation of 

The oldest of the MSS. on the preparation of 
pigments, that at Lucca, supposed to be of the 
eighth century, describes the preparation of artificial 
vermilion ; and similar receipts occur repeatedly in 
MSS. of later dates. Returning again to Cennino, 
there can be no doubt that the vermilion he refers 
to is artificial. He says: " This colour is produced 
by alchemy, performed in an alembic. . . . You may 
find many receipts, especially among the friars. . . . 

209 14 


Always purchase whole cinnabar. . . . That which 
is convex on the top, and covered with needle-shaped 
filaments, is the best." It has been suggested more 
than once that the old masters used the native cin- 
nabar, but, on the whole, the evidence is, I think, 
against this view. Evidently Cennino, at any rate, 
was familiar with the artificial variety. 

No people have been more famous than the 
Chinese for the preparation of vermilion, and they 
still have a deservedly high reputation for it. It 
seems to have been used by them, from very ekrly 
times, as a royal colour ; and we find, according to 
Marco Polo, that the paper currencyof Kublai Khan 
was stamped with the royal signature in vermilion. 
This remains the custom to thepresent dayinChina. 
The Chinese prepare the vermilion now by sublim- 
ing sulphur and mercury, and then grinding, wash- 
ing, and floating over. According to an account 
published in the Chemical News, the vermilion 
is suspended in water containing a little size. 
In this it settles slowly, and the top layer is then 
removed. I have examined many samples of ver- 
milion from China. It is a little difficult to get the 
genuine article, as most of that sent in here is merely 
European vermilion repacked in Chinese paper. 
The real article is unmistakable. It is not quite so 



bright as English vermilion, but is of a finer and 
softer colour, and is much more finely ground, being 
as soft as silk between the fingers. On subliming 
it, an ash is left, weighing from u to "05 percent, 
or even less, of the whole. The ash is brown, and 
is apparently a trace of oxide of iron. 

Unfortunately, English vermilion-makers have 
departed from the ways of their forefathers. They 
prepare a product by heating the black sulphide of 
mercury with strong caustic potash, and the product 
is Seldom free from alkali and alkaline sulphides. 

Chinese vermilion may be safely mixed with 
white lead. I know a sample so mixed which has 
remained unchanged for forty years. I should not 
like to try the same experiment with many of the 
vermilions made here. 

You will ask, is vermilion a permanent colour 
when properly prepared ? This question is some- 
what difficult to answer, but I will give you my view 
of the matter. 

In the first place, let us consider the facts before 
us. Vermilion is a sulphide of mercury. Now, this 
sulphide can exist in two varieties, the red or ver- 
milion and a black sulphide. We can pass from the 
black to the red sulphide. We can also, unfortu- 
nately, pass very easily from the red to the black 



sulphide. If Chinese vermilion (that is practically 
the same article as Cennino describes) is ground in 
oil, painted out, and exposed to sunlight in a south 
window, it turns black in a few rnonths. This agrees 
with Cennino's statement : " But remember that 
vermilion is not durable when exposed to the air ; 
it is more lasting on pictures than on walls, because, 
by long exposure to the air, it becomes black when 
applied to walls." 

Evidently, then, Cennino distrusted this pigment, 
though I venture to differ with his reason for doing 
so. We know of too many pigments that are affect- 
ed by air or moisture. The case of vermilion seems 
to be different from these. No chemical change is 
needed. The action of the sun's rays alone seems 
to rearrange the molecules into the black variety. 
In the experiments on water-colours made by Cap- 
tain Abney and Professor Russell, it was proved that, 
while many so-called fugitive colours were per- 
manent in dry hydrogen, this did not save vermilion 
from turning black. 

Now, let us look at the evidence on the other side. 
I have already mentioned the experiment with ver- 
milion in the late Holman Hunt's studio. Butwe can 
get other examples. There are many reds in the 
National Gallery that can only be produced by ver- 




I 'crmiiiatt /reely used aftd per/ectly J>ri'i:erve>it 

Page zij. 


milion. Among others, the red in the Rape of Helen, 
reproduced here. 

How, then, are these apparently contradictory 
facts to be reconciled ? If we accept the theory put 
forward by Abney and Russell, that the rate of de- 
struction of a pigment is a function of the amount 
of light falling on it, and that, consequently, a feeble 
light for lOO years produces the same effect as a 
strong light for one year, we cannot reconcile these 
facts. But this opinion of theirs has not been ac- 
cepted by the best authorities, such as Professor 
Church ; nor does it agree with the experience of 
chemists in other directions. Let us take, as an 
example, the action of heat in assisting chemical 
change. There are some changes which take place at 
a gradually accelerating rate, as the temperature is 
raised, but there are others which do not begin 
appreciably until a certain temperature is passed. 
Vermilion is a case of this kind. It does not change 
in the diffused- light of a room, but is quickly 
altered by direct sunlight. In this way only can 
I account for the facts before us. Under proper 
conditions, then, vermilion, properly made, is, I 
believe, a reliable pigment, and may be safely 
used. European vermilions, unless carefully wash- 
ed with weak acid, and then with water, are not 



reliable. In this way 70 per cent, of the ash is 

Minium or Red Lead. — This pigment, prepared 
by the careful roasting of litharge, has been long 
known. It is described by Pliny, and, according to 
this authority, was discovered 320 B.C. There can 
be no doubt that this pigment has been much used 
in the past, and it is still very largely used for house- 
painters' work. It is, however, very rarely used by 
artists, as it has fallen completely into discredit. To 
my mind there is no more beautiful red, and I think 
it is a great loss to the palette. Two reasons for 
not using it are usually given. One, that it tends, 
like all lead pigments, to blacken in impure air. The 
other, that it is actually decomposed by daylight, re- 
turning to the dull brownish-yellow litharge. It is 
of interest here to note what Cennino Cennini says 
of it : " This pigment is only proper to be used in 
pictures ; for if it be used on walls, on exposure to 
the air it suddenly becomes black, and loses its 
colour." It used to be customary to wash it before 
use with wine and water. One curious receipt for 
preserving minium is given by De Mayerne, a 
physician in the court of Charles I., to whom I 
shall have to refer very fully in later chapters. He 
advises washing it repeatedly with vinegar. More 



than one reference shows that it was not considered 
a very safe pigment. It was prepared by roasting 
white lead. It is now, I believe, usually prepared 
from litharge. No doubt the minium prepared from 
white lead would be a finer pigment. I have not 
made any experiments with it myself, but I propose 
doing so, as I doubt if it is rightly condemned, and 
its beauty makes it well worth reintroducing to the 
notice of artists. 

Amatisto. — Thereseems to be considerable doubt 
as to the nature of the pigment so called by Cennino 
Cennini. He says it is a natural colour, and is pro- 
duced from a hard, firm stone from which burnish- 
ing tools can be made. It is a purple colour, and 
is probably a variety of haematite. (Mrs Merrifield 
seems to think it may have been native cinnabar.) 
One curious point is thatCenninosays it is the colour 
that cardinals use. " The cardinals had the red hat 
by a decree of the Council of Lyons, held in 1 245 
by Innocent IV. They did not adopt the red dress 
till 1464, that is, under the pontificate of Paul II. ; 
therefore at the period when Cennino was living 
they still wore the purple colour" (Tambroni). 

Dragons-blood. — I have already referred to this 
resin in the third chapter. It is mentioned by Pliny, 
and is the resin obtained from the calamus palm 



{Pterocarpus Draco, Linnaeus. Dragon tree). Cen- 
nino says of this pigment, " Let it alone ; it will 
never do you much credit." 

Lake, which comes next in order, I shall treat of 
in a special chapter. 

Yellow Ochre. — Nothing need be said about this 
pigment. A natural earth, it has been used from the 
earliest times, and is absolutely permanent. Cennino 
describes a very fine variety he found near Casole. 

Giallorino. — The history and nature of this pig- 
ment are somewhat obscure. Cennino distinctly 
states that it is a volcanic product. He states that 
it is not a brilliant yellow, though brighter than 
ochre, and never makes bright greens. Mrs Merri- 
field considers that several pigments were included 
under this name. I cannot do better than quote her 
summing up of this matter. 

1. "A native mineral yellow pigment, known by 
the name oi giallolino, giallolino di Napoli, jaune de 
Naples, lutecium Napolitanum." 

This is doubtless the yellow referred to by Cen- 
nino. All trace of it seems to be lost, though prob- 
ably a proper search in a volcanic district would 
lead to its discovery. 

2. "An artificial pigment which was composed 
of the yellow protoxide of lead, and which was called 



giallolino, giallolino fino, giallolino di fornace di 
fiandra, luteolum Belgicum genuli (the last is a 
Spanish term), and massicot, oi^Vvch there were two 
varieties, namely, the golden or yellow, and the 
white or pale massicot^ 

This pigment can be prepared by gently roasting 
white lead. It is now known as Turner's yellow. 
It is apt to turn black, like all lead pigments, the 
fault of our towns, not of themselves, 
f 3. " An artificial pigment made at Venice, com- 
posed oi giallolino fino and a certain kind oi giallo 
di vetro, or vitreous yellow, for which a receipt is 
given in the Bolognese MS. in the Venetian dialect, 
and which appears to have been the Hornaza of the 

This receipt is worth quoting, and is as follows : — 

"To make yellow glass for paternosters or beads : 
— Take of lead i lb., of tin 2 lb. ; melt and calcine 
them, and make glass for paternosters. 

" To rmke giallolino for painting : — Take 2 lb. of 
this calcined lead and tin, that is, 2 lb. of this glass 
for paternosters, 2^ lb. of minium, and ^ lb. of sand 
pounded very fine ; put it into a furnace and let it 
fine itself, and the colour will be perfect." ^ 

' MS. of the fifteenth century in the library of the R. R. Canonici 
Regolari, in the Convent of the St Salvatore in Bologna. 



This pigment must have been a yellow lead frit. 
Probably effective on fresco walls, but of little or no 
use in oil. Mrs Merrifield then goes on : — 

" I consider it established that they used two 
kinds of Naples yellow, namely — 

" I. A native mineral pigment found in the neigh- 
bourhood of volcanoes, the nature of which is not 
accurately known, and which was called ^M/Zfj/mc di 
Napoli and jaune de Naples, and which is synony- 
mous with the first kind of giallolino above men- 

" 2. An artificial pigment now in use composed 
of the oxides of lead and antimony, cdWed giallo di 
Napoli, jaune de Naples, and Naples yellow, and 
which was not known to the Italian artists." 

Apparently the manufacture of the more modern 
artificial Naples yellow has now ceased. I failed to 
find either that it was made or that anyone had ever 
heard of its being made in Naples. The manufacture 
has long ceased, apparently. The colour now sold 
as Naples yellow is, I understand, usually a mixture 
of yellows. One sample I examined was massicot pure 
and simple. A fine yellow can be made from lead and 
antimony, and I have some which I have made my- 
self Possibly a search on Mount Vesuvius might re- 
sult in the rediscovery of the original Naples yellow, 



Orpiment or Auripigmentum. — This sulphide of 
arsenic exists both as a natural and artificial pig- 
ment. The natural sulphide is found in volcanic 
districts. 1 1 has not been found in any of the ancient 
Greek or Roman paintings. Cennino says it is unfit 
for use in distemper, because it turns black. Cen- 
nino mentions it as being an artificial pigment. It 
was known and used through the best periods of art, 
but always with special precautions, as being liable 
to change and to attack other pigments. 

Cornelius Jansen says : " Orpiment will ly fayre 
on any colour except verdegris, but no colour can ly 
fayre on him ; he kills them all." 

De Mayerne, speaking of Vandyck, says : "He 
makes use of orpiment, which is the finest yellow 
that is to be found, but it dries very slowly, and, 
when mixed with other colours, it destroys them. 
In order to make it dry, a little ground glass should 
be mixed with it. In making use of it, it should be 
applied by itself, the drapery (for which alone it is 
fit) having been prepared with other yellows. Upon 
them, when dry, the lights should be painted with 
orpiment ; your work will then be in the highest 
degree beautiful." 

This addition of powdered glass is advised by 
Cennino for another reason. It will be noted, from 



these accounts, that it does not seem liable to alter 
in itself, but to act on other colours. If it was liable 
to change, it would be advisable to use some differ- 
ent medium than oil. There can be no objection 
apparently to using it in the way stated, but it would 
not be safe to put it into the hands of a modern 
artist, as he would probably mix it too freely with 
other colours. The reason for not painting it over 
with verdigris will be given when we come to that 

Risalgallo Realgar, or Red Orpiment. — This 
pigment, prepared by heating gently orpiment, has 
similar properties, and must be used with the same 

Zafferano {Saffron). — Cennino recommends pre- 
paring this colour by putting the saffron in a bag 
and rubbing it down with lye. He says it is good 
for staining linen or paper, and it makes a beautiful 
green with verdigris, but must not be exposed to the 
air. This is, if course, a very fugitive colour, and 
was probably only used for temporary purposes. 
Saffron has already been mentioned as suitable for 
colouring varnishes. 

Arzica. — Cennino says that this pigment is not 
durable when exposed to the air, and is not to be 
used on walls. According to the Bolognese MS., 



it is a lake prepared from weld (wild mignonette). 
It is probably the most permanent of the yellow 
lakes. When used for dyeing, weld yields a very 
beautiful yellow, which stands exposure to sunlight 
remarkably well, and is probably the most perma- 
nent yellow dye. It was used by William Morris for 
his tapestry work. At the same time the yellows in 
the old tapestries do not seem to bear exposure and 
time so well as the reds and blues. In many cases 
they are almost completely gone. So that Cennino's 
judgment of this pigment is probably correct. 

This completes the list of yellow pigments men- 
tioned by Cennino Cennini. He has, however, 
omitted one of the first importance from the list, to 
which he devotes a great part of his book, namely, 
gold. He describes elsewhere the grinding up of 
gold leaf for use in miniature painting, and, as his 
panels are laid on with gold, he depends on it for 
many of his effects. The use of gold as a yellow 
pigment, however, apart from decorative work, is 
not common, as far as my experience goes. It is, 
however, used by Holbein, the process being appar- 
ently to lay on the gold, and then glaze with dull 
yellow up to the high lights, just allowing the gold 
to show through at the high lights. Another re- 
markable instance is the famous rainbow portrait of 



Queen Elizabeth. The inner lining of the robe is 
a rich yellow. The high lights are given by means 
of gold. 

Those who have not tried do not know what a 
wonderfully rich effect can be produced by the glaz- 
ing over gold of transparent pigments. 

Verde Terra {Terre Verte). — There is no need 
to say anything about this natural earth. Like the 
ochres, it is useful and absolutely reliable, and al- 
ways has and always will be used. Cennino says 
that it may be used instead of bole for preparing the 
surface for the gold. 

Verde Azzurro. — Cennino says that this green 
is prepared from azzurro della magna. He also 
states that it must not be ground too fine, as it loses 
its colour. According to Mrs Merrifield, however, 
verde azzurro is a native copper carbonate, similar to 
green bice. Cennino's description certainly suggests 
a frit of some kind, as the frits are spoiled by too fine 
grinding. It is not impossible that the azzurro della 
magna (blue copper ore) was converted into a green 
pigment artificially. There can be no doubt, how- 
ever, that green copper ores were known and used 
as pigments. I shall, however, discuss this point at 
greater length when I come to the copper blues. 

Verderame ( Verdigris). — Of this pigment Cen- 



nino says it is good in pictures tempered with glue, 
but must never be mixed with white lead. He also 
says it is improved in colour by grinding with vin- 
egar, but is not durable. 

This pigment was largely used apparently both 
by the Italian and Flemish painters. It was pre- 
pared by exposing plates of copper to the action of 
acetic acid vapour, and it is a subacetate of copper. 
A finer preparation was made by dissolving it in 
vinegar, and letting it crystallise out. This prepar- 
ation was known as verde eterno. It is a very trans- 
parent blue green, and was used to glaze over other 
colours, A drapery, for instance, painted in yellow 
and glazed with verdigris would be of a fine green. 
The brilliant greens in the original manuscript from 
which the picture on page 250 is photographed are 
probably painted with verdigris. The green is, how- 
ever, a fine one, especially as no yellow brighter than 
ochre is used in thesolid painting. Verdigris is per- 
haps the most interesting of all the pigments used 
by the old masters, as we know it to turn black 
and to invade and destroy other colours. Its suc- 
cessful use by them, therefore, is little short of mar- 
vellous. I will treat of this, however, at some length 
when the mediums used by the old masters come 
under discussion, and it will be our most interesting 



example of what can be done by the right selection 
of a medium. 

Bianco Sangiovanni ( Whiting). — This is largely 
whiting, or chalk, and is recommended for fresco 
work by Cennino Cennini. His method of prepara- 
tion is, however, a beautiful one. He takes slaked 
lime, and, mixing it with water, keeps it for eight 
days, changing the water every day. He then 
makes it into small cakes, and lets them dry in the 
sun. As he says, the older they are (that is, the 
more completely they change back into carbonate) 
the whiter they become. 

Biacca ( White Lead). — Cennino says that it must 
not be used for fresco, as it turns black, but may 
be used on pictures. This pigment was apparently 
known to the ancients, though not used on walls. 
It always has been, and still is, prepared (some of it) 
in the same way, by the action of vinegar vapour 
on metallic lead ; a process popularly known as the 
Dutch process. There is no reason to suppose that 
the pigment made now by this process differs in any 
way from that used by the old masters. Under the 
name of flake white it is used to-day for oil-painting. 
It may be as well to explain here, and now, certain 
points about this pigment which seem to be not 
clearly understood by artists. 



In the first place, it is necessary to understand that 
stack lead, as I shall call it, that is, white lead made 
by the action of acetic acid vapour on lead plates, 
contains two substances, one known as carbonate, 
the other hydrate of lead, and it owes its peculiar 
properties to the intimate union in the right propor- 
tion of these two. One of the most important of 
these properties is its power of combining with the 
oil to form what is known as a lead soap, thus form- 
ing a leathery substance of great durability. All the 
so-called permanent whites do not do this, and, con- 
sequently, remain merely a mixture of particles of 
pigment with the oil. Furthermore, a great deal of 
white lead is made now by a precipitation process. 
It is whiter than stack lead, and therefore preferred 
by artists ; but it does not combine with the oil, as 
stack lead does, and is not so reliable. A mixture 
of the two is also sold, which is fairly satisfactory, 
I think. 

Now, to illustrate what I mean by this combin- 
ing with the oil, I will describe an experiment made 
by a manufacturer of whites. He coated some 
pieces of canvas with different whites, such as pa- 
tent white, precipitated white lead, and so on, and 
fixed them up on a roof, where they would flap 
about in the wind and get all the weather going. 

225 15 


The stack lead canvas was not affected by this treat- 
ment, but the other whites cracked and dusted off. 
On the other hand, exposure tests on wood have 
conclusively shown that zinc white or mixtures of 
zinc white and lead whites such as lead sulphate 
stand exposure better than white lead. 

To go on to another point — the darkening of 
white lead. In impure air, containing certain com- 
pounds of sulphur, white lead turns to an unpleas- 
ant brown. If, however, it is then exposed to sun- 
light, it quickly recovers again and returns to its 
original white. 

Besides this action, if kept in the dark it becomes 
of a yellow colour, not disagreeable. This is quite 
different from the effect of sulphuretted hydrogen, 
but can also be removed by exposure to sunlight. 

The ease with which white lead is thus restored 
has not, I think, been allowed for sufficiently in 
considering its instability as a pigment. 

Azzurro della Magna. — According to Mrs 
Merrifield, it is a blue copper ore. Cennino says 
that it is found in the veins of silver mines, and that 
it comes from Germany and from Greece. There 
was, probably, no blue more universally used than 
this during the best periods of Italian art. It is 
repeatedly referred to, and Professor Branchi, of 



Pisa, has found it in many old pictures and frescoes. 
I do not doubt that blue often seen on the walls of 
our cathedrals, where a little of the old colouring 
remains, is this copper ore. It is true that the origi- 
nal preparation of copper blues seems to have come 
in also very early, and it is difficult, therefore, to 
say which may have been used in any particular 
case. I will not trouble you with all the information 
collected on this point. With reference to the use 
of copper blues in painting, however, a few remarks 
are necessary. In the first place, it seems to have 
been the practice to lay on this blue with size and 
not with oil, the opinion being that in oil it turned 
green. Whether this is so or not is deserving of an 
experiment. In order to be able to use size in an oil- 
painting, the oil surface was rubbed with a little gar- 
lic. In this way a sticky surface was formed on 
which the size could grip. The use of size in this way 
is undoubted, and has been found in restoring some 
ancient pictures. Doubtless, also, the blue would be 
laid on with certain varnishes ; but this point must 
be left in the meantime. After laying on with size 
it was varnished over in many cases. 

In fresco, of course, these difficulties would not 
present themselves. Copper blue and green have 
fallen into great discredit in modern times, and I 



propose to consider here shortly how far this is 

In the first place, their use in oil seems to have 
been always objected to, certain varnishes or size 
being used. But if used with size there seems to 
be no reason to doubt their durability in pure air. 
Copper tends, under certain conditions, to oxidise 
and carbonate into blues and greens, as is seen on 
old bronze. This is the final product from exposure 
to damp and air, and doubtless a stable one. The 
fact of similar colours being found in copper ores 
confirms the view that copper blues and green, at 
any rate of native origin, should be stable com- 

Can they then be recommended for use now in 
painting.'' I fear not, and because of our old enemy, 
sulphur. In the pure air of a country house, where 
ofas has never been heard of, I would not fear to 
use them, but they are, I consider, more suscep- 
tible even than white lead, and for this reason. 
White lead is easily restored, at least in oil, by ex- 
posure to sunlight. Copper, I believe, will be found 
not to recover in the same way. It will gradually 
blacken without recovery. Consequently the re- 
introduction of copper ores for modern work cannot, 
I fear, be recommended. 



We have discussed elsewhere the Egyptian blue 
and the more modern smalt, apparently both un- 
known to Cennino Cennini. 

They are quite useless in oil, as fine grinding 
immediately destroys their beauty, but are, I be- 
lieve, especially applicable to fresco work. I know 
of no blue at present in the market which can be 
more safely recommended for fresco-painting, and I 
think that these blues might well be revived for this 
purpose. The manufacture of a cobalt frit or com- 
mon smalt might well be improved, so as to make a 
reliable pigment of it. 

Azzurro oltre Marino ( Ultramarine). — We now 
come to the most famous of all blues, real ultra- 
marine, prepared from lapis lazuli. Cennino says, 
" Ultramarine is a colour more noble, beautiful, and 
perfect than any other colour ; and its good qualities 
exceed anything we can say in its favour." The 
utmost pains used to be taken with its preparation 
from the stone, and it was always very expensive. 
Certain monasteries were famous for preparing it, 
and supplied it to the artists they employed ; and 
many stories are told of their stingy ways with this 
colour, and how they suspected the artists of steal- 
ing it, and so on. It is still prepared, but has been 
replaced by the artificial ultramarines. These are 



similar in chemical composition, and very beautiful, 
and the best qualities seem durable. But it is very 
questionable if they equal in any way the real 
article. I quote in full Cennino's description of the 
method of preparing this colour. It is very similar 
to the receipts given in other MSS. : — 

"Chapter LXII 

" Of the nature of azzurro oltre marino {ultramarine blue), 
and how it is prepared 

" Ultramarine blue is a colour noble, beautiful, 
and perfect beyond all other colours, and there is no- 
thing that could be said of it but it will still exceed 
this (praise). On account of its great excellence, I 
shall speak of it at length, and give you full direc- 
tions for preparing it ; and you must pay great at- 
tention to them, that you may gain honour and 
service from them. And with this colour, together 
with gold (which adorns all the works of our art) let 
everything be resplendent, whether on walls or 

" First take some lapis lazuli ; and if you would 
know how to distinguish the best stones, take those 
which contain most of the blue colour, for it is mixed 
with what is like ashes. That which contains least 
of this ash pigment is the best ; but be careful that 



you do not mistake for it azzurro della magna, which 
is as beautiful to the eye as enamel. 

" Pound it in a covered bronze mortar, that the 
powder may not fly away ; then put it on your slab 
of porphyry, and grind it without water; afterwards 
take a covered strainer like that used by the drug- 
gists for sifting drugs (spices) and sift it, and pound 
again as much as is required. But bear in mind that 
though the more you grind, the more finely powdered 
the azzurro will be, yet it will not be so beautiful and 
rich and deep in colour, and that the finely ground 
sort is fit for miniature painters, and for draperies 
inclining to white. When the powder is prepared, 
procure from the druggist six ounces of resin of the 
pine, three ounces of mastic, and three ounces of new 
wax to each pound of lapis lazuli. Put all these in- 
gredients into a new pipkin and melt them together. 
Then take a piece of white linen and strain these 
things into a glazed basin. Then take a pound of the 
powder of lapis lazuli ; mix it all well together into 
a paste, and that you may be able to handle the paste, 
take linseed oil, and keep your hands always well 
anointed with this oil. This paste must be kept at 
least three days and three nights, kneading it a little 
every day ; and remember that you may keep it for 
fifteen days or a month, or as long as you please. 



When you would extract the azure from the paste, 
proceed thus: — Make two sticks of strong wood, 
neither too thick nor too thin, about a foot long ; let 
them be well rounded at each end and well polished 
(smoothed). Then, your paste being in the glazed 
basin into which you first put it, add to it a porrin- 
gerful of lye, moderately warm ; and with these two 
sticks, one in each hand, turn and squeeze and knead 
the paste thoroughly, exactly in the manner thatyou 
would knead bread. When you see that the lye is 
thoroughly blue, pour it out into a glazed basin ; take 
the same quantity of fresh lye, pour it over the paste, 
and work it with the sticks as before. When this lye 
is very blue, pour it into another glazed basin, and 
continue to do so for several days, until the paste no 
longer tinges the lye. Then throw it away ; it is good 
for nothing. Range all the basins before you on a 
table in order, that is to say, the first, second, third, 
and fourth ; then, beginning at the first, with your 
hand stir up the lye with the azure, which by its 
weight will have sunk to the bottom, and then you 
will know the depth of colour of the azure. Consider 
how many shades of the azure you will have, whether 
three, or four, or six, or what number you please, al- 
ways remembering that the first-drawn extracts are 
the best, as the first basin is better than the second. 



And if you have eighteen basins of extract, and you 
wish to make three shadesof azure, take the contents 
of six basins and mix them together; that will be one 
shade. Proceed in the same manner with the others. 
But remember that if you have good lapis lazuli, the 
azure from the first two extracts is worth eightducats 
the ounce. The last two extracts are worse than 
ashes — may your eyes therefore be experienced, so 
as not to spoil the good azure by mixing it with the 
bad ; and each day remove the lye that the azure 
may dry. When it is quite dry, according to the sorts 
you have, put it into skins, bladders, or purses, as 
may be most convenient, and take notice that if the 
lapis lazuli should not be very good, or if, after hav- 
ing ground it, the colour were not to turn out deep 
(violante) enough, I will tell you how to give it a 
little colour. Take a little pounded kermes lake 
i^grana) and a little verzino, but mind the verzino 
is grated or scraped with glass ; and then boil them 
together with lye or a little roche alum. And when 
they boil, and you see that the colour is a perfect 
crimson, before you have withdrawn the azure from 
the porringer, but well dried from lye, add to it a 
little of this lake and verzino, and with your finger 
mix everything well together ; and let them remain 
till dried, without sun, or fire, or wind. When dry, 



put it into a skin or purse, and rejoice in it, for it is 
good and perfect. And bear in mind that it is a 
rare gift to know how to make it well. You must 
know also that it is rather the art of maidens than 
of men to make it, because they remain continually 
in the house, and are more patient and their hands 
are more delicate. But beware of old women. When 
you use this azure, take as much as you want ; and 
if you are going to work on light dresses, it must 
be ground a little on your usual stone. And if you 
want it for laying grounds, it must be very little 
worked on the stone and always with very clear 
water, the stone being well washed and clean. And 
if the azure should get soiled it any way, take a little 
lye or clean water, and put it into the vase, and 
stir them well together, changing it two or three 
times, when the blue will be quite clean. I shall not 
treat of its tempera, because I shall hereafter de- 
scribe all the temperas proper for every colour to 
be used on pictures, on walls, on iron, on paper, on 
stone, or on glass." 

The blacks mentioned by Cennino are three in 
number : black chalk, a chalk prepared by charring 
the young shoots of the vine ; a black from almond 
skins or peach stones ; and lampblack. 



Ivory black was also known, though not mention- 
ed by him. With reference to lampblack, Vasari says 
that it has a tendency to darken in time, and gives 
this as the cause of injury to Raphael's Transfigura- 
tion in the Vatican. 

It will be noticed that he mentions no browns. 
Browns, however, such as umber were known and 
used, and asphaltum in later times. The successful 
use of asphaltum is very difficult to understand. 
Many modern pictures have been spoiled by it, and 
artists are afraid of it. In some old receipts, how- 
ever, we are directed to roast it before grinding 
in oil. Professor Church, in his recent book on 
pigments, gives his testimony that this is perfectly 
successful, and the pigment may then be used with 
impunity, but it is very much less beautiful. 

Besides these colours, Cennino mentions indigo, 
and states that a fine green can be made by mixing 
it with orpiment. He probably, however, only means 
it to be used in miniature painting. 

He also mentions lakes, but does not describe their 
composition. The question of the lakes used by the 
old masters is so important that it will be discussed 
in a separate chapter. 

Having thus gone through the list of pigments 
given by him, it is of some interest to refer again to 



those that he regarded as safe for use in fresco. 
These were sinopia, amatisto, yellow ochre, Naples 
yellow, verde terra, bianco sangiovanni, and black. 
No blue is mentioned, though elsewhere he talks of 
using indigo, which is difficult to understand. Of 
these colours one is wanting from the modern palette, 
namely, Naples yellow. There can be no doubt that 
as safe a palette can be selected from among modern 
pigments. As stated in Chapter VI., if blue copper 
frits are introduced again, or cobalt blue used, with 
cobalt green and oxide of chromium green, a per- 
fectly safe palette could be made up along with the 
earths given above. 

Cennino Cennini next tells us how to varnish the 
finished tempera picture, in the following words : — 

" You must know that the best varnishing is to 
delay as long as possible after your picture is painted 
— the longer the better. And I speak truth when 
I say that if you delay for several years, or at least 
for one year, your work will be much fresher. The 
reason of this is, that the colouring naturally acquires 
the same condition as the gold, which shuns a mix- 
ture with other metals ; so that the colours when 
mixed with their proper tempera dislike the inmix- 
ture of other tempera. Varnish is a strong liquor 
and gives great force {dimostrativo), and will be 



obeyed in everything, and annuls every other tem- 
pera. And suddenly, as you spread it over the pic- 
ture, the colours lose their natural strength and must 
obey the varnish, and their own tempera has no 
longer power to refresh them. . . . Then take liquid 
varnish, the brightest and clearest you can obtain ; 
place your picture in the sun, wipe it and clean it as 
thoroughly as you can from dust and dirt of every 
kind ; and take care that it is weather without wind, 
because the dust is subtle, and every time that the 
wind blows it over your picture, you will have more 
difficulty in making it clean. You might well var- 
nish in such a place as a green meadow or by the 
sea. . . . When you have warmed the picture in 
the sun and the varnish also, place the picture level, 
and with your hands spread the varnish all over 
thinly and well ... or dip a small piece of fine 
sponge in the varnish, rolling it with the hand over 
the picture." 

It is evident from this account that the varnish 
was thick, and had to be warmed and then rubbed 
on with the hand. Its probable composition is dis- 
cussed in the chapter on varnishes. We have thus 
obtained by a study of this MS. a very complete 
picture of the whole procedure in his time necessary 
for the painting for tempera pictures. The final pro- 



cess of varnishing has not usually lasted on these 
pictures, the varnish having crumbled off through 
time and left the uninjured egg-picture underneath, 
which has in many cases again been varnished in 
modern times. Such protection by varnish is no 
doubt very necessary for such pictures, as they 
are easily injured by scratching, dirt, and injurious 
gases. The remarkable fact remains, however, that 
though egg is not the medium one would have se- 
lected as likely to endure through the centuries, these 
pictures have remained fresh and firm, while oil- 
pictures have darkened, wrinkled, cracked, and fis- 
sured, have, in fact, been destroyed by the medium 
with which they have been painted, not through the 
fault in most cases of the pigments which have been 

In the following chapters Cennino Cennini dis- 
courses on oil painting: — 

"Chapter LXXXIX 

" How io paint in oil on walls, panels, iron, or whatever 
you please 

" Before we proceed further, I will teach you to 
paint in oil on walls, or on panels, which is much 
practised by the Germans, and in the same way on 
iron or stone. But we will first speak of walls. 



"Chapter XC 
" How to begin painting in oil on walls 
" Cover your wall with plaster, exactly as you 
would do when painting in fresco, except that where 
you then covered but a small space at a time, you 
are now to spread it over your whole work. Make 
your design with charcoal, and fix it with ink or 
verdaccio, tempered. Then take a little glue, much 
diluted with water — a whole egg, well beaten in a 
porringer, with the milky juice of the fig-tree, is a 
still better tempera — you must add to the said egg 
a glassful of clean water. Then, either with a sponge 
or a very soft brush without a point, go once over 
the whole ground on which you are going to paint, 
and leave it to dry for one day at least. 

"Chapter XCI 

' ' How to make oil fit for tempering colours, and also for 
mordants, by boiling over the fire 

"It will be very useful to you to know how to 
prepare this oil for many things that are done ; 
therefore, take one, two, three, or four pounds of 
linseed oil, and put it into a new pipkin ; if it is glazed, 
so much the better. Make a small furnace, and make 
a round hole, into which the pipkin fits exactly, so 



that the flame may not reach it, because the fire easily 
catches it, and there would be danger to the oil, and 
also of burning the house. When you have made 
your furnace, put a moderate fire in it ; and the more 
slowly your oil boils, the better and more perfect 
will it be. Let it boil until it is reduced to half the 
quantity. But to prepare mordants, when it is re- 
duced to half the quantity, add to each pound of oil 
one ounce of liquid varnish {vernice liquida), and let 
it be very fine and clear ; and oil thus prepared is 
good for mordants. 

"Chapter XCII 

' ' How to prepare good and perfect oil by cooking it 
in the sun 

" When you have prepared this oil (which is also 
cooked in another way, better for painting, but not 
for mordants, for which it must be done on the fire, 
that is, cooked), take your linseed oil, and in summer 
time put it in a basin of bronze or copper. And in 
August [quando e il sole leone) place it in the sun ; 
and if you keep it there till it is half wasted, it will 
be exactly right for mixing with colours. And you 
must know that, in Florence, I have found the finest 
and best that there can be. 



"Chapter XCIII 

" How to grind colours in oil and to use them on walls 

" Let us return to grinding the colours. Begin and 
grind colour by colour, as you did when working in 
fresco, except that where you then ground them with 
water, you must now grind them with oil. And when 
you have ground them, that is to say, all the colours 
(for every colour can be mixed with oil except bianco 
sangiovanni), provide small vessels, either of lead 
or of tin, into which put these colours. And if you 
cannot find such, get glazed vessels, and put the 
ground colours into them ; put them in a box, that 
they may keep clean. When you would paint a 
drapery with three gradations of colour, as I have 
previously taught you, divide the space, and let each 
colour be laid in its proper place with a minever 
brush, uniting one colour well with another, the 
colours being very stiff Then stop for a few days 
and return again to your work ; see how the paint 
covers, and repaint where necessary. And in this 
way paint flesh or anything you please, and in this 
way mountains, trees, and every other work. Pro- 
vide a vessel of tin or lead (something like a lamp), 
about the height of your finger, half fill it with oil, 
and keep your brushes in it that they may not dry." 

241 16 


This oil would be thicker than that used by artists 
to-day, and would rather resemble lithographic var- 
nish, and be stiff to grind pigments in and to paint 
with. I discuss its properties at greater length when 
considering the whole subject of oil-painting. It is 
evident from these chapters that Cennino Cennini 
was not only aware that everything could be done 
in oil, but had himself experimented with it. 

Finally, though Cennino Cennini mentions var- 
nish (vernice liquida), he tells us nothing of its com- 
position. Besides mixing it with thickened oil as a 
mordant for laying on gold, he also uses it for his 
finished tempera pictures. 

We have next to consider the g.^^ mediums de- 
scribed by Cennino Cennini, and the way in which 
he directs them to be used. Of these the most im- 
portant is the yolk of &%g. In the part of this book 
dealing with fresco I have already mentioned that 
for painting on the dry wall surface Cennino Cen- 
nini advises a medium of white and yolk of ^gg and 
fig-tree juice. This, however, is not his medium for 
panel pictures. For these he recommends simply 
the yolk of the ^gg. 

In chapter Ixxii. — the one already quoted as giv- 
ing thelist of pigments safe for buonfresco — hesays: 
" The first tempera consists of the white and yolk 



of an egg, into which are put some cuttings of young 
shoots of the fig-tree ; beat them well together, then 
add some of this tempera moderately, neither too 
much nor too little, to each of the vases, like mixing 
halfwine with half water. . , , If you use too much 
tempera suddenly, the colour will crack off the wall. 
. , . The second kind of tempera is the yolk of egg 
only ; and you must know that this tempera is of 
universal application on walls, on panels, and on 
iron, and you cannot use too much of it ; but be 
sure and take a middle course." Again, in chapter 
cxlv., he says: "You must always temper your 
colours with yolk of egg" for panel-painting. There 
can be no doubt, therefore, that yolk of egg was his 
tempera, the pigments being first ground in and kept 
wet with water. The proportion between egg and 
water is, however, left uncertain ; but apparently the 
yolk of egg, after breaking up, is mixed with an equal 
quantity of water and this used to blend with the 
pastily wet pigments. With this medium thin and 
repeated paintings were made one over the other. 
For the whole technique the reader is referred to 
Mrs Herringham's translation of Cennino Cennini. 
Besides this universal tempera, Cennino Cennini ad- 
vises the use of size in the case of saffron, orpiment 
and ultramarine, orpiment and indigo; and, for ver- 



digris, size on panels, but yolk of egg on parchment 
or paper. Mrs Herringham has not found it prac- 
ticable to use size in the same picture with yolk of 
egg. Besides receipts for the preparation of parch- 
ment glue, Cennino Cennini mentions fish-glue more 
than once, and honey, but not as painting mediums. 
He also refers to linseed oil for making paper trans- 
parent, as well as a painting medium. The refer- 
ence to linseed oil by Cennino Cennini is of great 
interest as showing what was known of this medium 
long before oil-painting became customary in Italy. 



In the course of the various chapters dealing with 
the receipts from Theophilus, Cennino Cennini, and 
others, a considerable amount of information has 
necessarily been given on the subject of the illumin- 
ating of manuscripts ; but it is, nevertheless, neces- 
sary to bring it to a focus in one place in order to 
make the information intelligible and connective. 
It is not part of the purpose of this book to deal with 
the history of illuminated manuscripts, or to con- 
sider the various developments of decorative art in 
connection with them. We have already said some- 
thing of the painting on papyrus MSS. in Egypt, 
and the illustration on page 21 is an example of this 
kind of Egyptian art; but we have now to deal with 
the efforts of later times. 

During the time of the Byzantine Empire very 
beautiful illuminated MSS.wereproduced,andmore 



especially for the use of the Byzantine emperors, 
manuscripts stained purple with murex and written 
in letters of gold. These manuscripts were princi- 
pally books of the Gospels, and many of them are 
still in existence. The purple staining seems to have 
faded considerably, but the pigments have retained 
their freshness. 

Beautiful illuminated manuscripts were also pro- 
duced during the reign of Charles the Great and his 
successors. This revival of the illuminator's art was 
due to the aid of Alcuin of York, who was abbot of 
the Benedictine monastery of St Martin at Tours. 
A beautifully illuminated copy of his revised edition 
of the Vulgate exists in the British Museum. 

But the history of illuminated MSS. is very speci- 
ally associated with these islands, and especially with 
Ireland. The Irish Church was founded about 430 
A.D., and by the middle of the seventh century the 
Irish monks had learned to produce both gold- 
smiths' work and illuminated manuscripts with a 
taste and skill of the highest order. The delicate 
work executed in gold influenced largely the decora- 
tive treatment of the vellum surface owing to the 
fact that the same monk practised both arts. The 
most famous example of the work of this period is 
the Book of Kells, in the library of Trinity College, 



Dublin. The sheets of vellum are occasionally 
stained purple after the Byzantine manner — the 
Irish monks had learned how to extract the purple 
dye from a varietyofmurex found on the shoreof the 
Irish Channel, — but both gold and silver decoration 
is absent from these early manuscripts. The art 
was introduced into England by Irish monks, and 
for many centuries the finest illuminating work was 
done in this country. One of the most famous centres 
for the production of this work was the Abbey of 
Lindisfarne. In the year 635, at the request of 
Oswald, King of N orthumbria, an I rish monk, Aidan, 
came from lona to preach the Gospel in North- 
umbria, and selected the island of Lindisfarne as his 
headquarters. Here was prepared the "Book of the 
Gospels of St Cuthbert," the writing being done by 
Eadfrith, "in honour of God and of Saint Cuthbert," 
the illuminations by ^thelwold, afterwards ninth 
Bishop of Lindisfarne, and thegoldandgem-studded 
case by Bilfrith. Owing to the constant harrying 
of the abbey by the Vikings, the monks, in the 
year 878, fled from the island with the body of St 
Cuthbert and the "Book of the Gospels." The box 
containing the Gospels was washed overboard, and 
the ship finally driven back and stranded on the 
shore, where the monks, to their joy, found the box 



with the manuscript miraculouslypreserved, and, ac- 
cording to Symeon, uninjured. The MS., which is 
to-day in the British Museum, shows, however, 
traces of the injury done by the salt water, but is on 
the whole wonderfully preserved. 

The English art of illuminating reached its highest 
perfection in the thirteenth century, more especially 
during the long reign of Henry III., from 1216 to 
1272 ; but fine work was still executed through the 
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, although mixed 
with a great deal of inferior work. 

In France the illuminating of MSS. flourished 
under King Louis IX. (121 5-1 270) as much as it 
did in England, and in the fourteenth century the 
French MSS. are the finest being produced at that 
time. The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries are 
periods of decline in the production of these works 
of art. The demand forilluminated MSS. hadgrown 
enormously, with the result that it passed out of the 
hands of the monks, and in Paris, Brussels, Antwerp, 
Bruges, Ghent, Arras, and other French and Flem- 
ish cities, large numbers of secular writers and illu- 
minators grew up, and special guilds of illuminators 
were formed. Ultimately the art is destroyed by the 
invention and development of printing, though for 
some time both are found being carried on side by 



side, and a combination of both arts is to be found 
in the Books of Hours, produced in Paris during the 
close of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth 
century, printed on vellum, decorated with woodcut 
borders, and illuminated by painting in gold and 
opaque colours over the engravings. For this brief 
historical account I am indebted to the late Profes- 
sor Middleton's Illuminated Manuscripts in Classi- 
cal and Mediceval Times. 

The manuscripts were usually written and painted 
on vellum, though paper was sometimes used, and 
the pigments and mediums were those already de- 
scribed. Special attention was given, among other 
things, to the application of gold. This was done in 
two ways, either as gold leaf or gold paint. When 
applied as gold leaf it was usually burnished, and 
for this purpose required to have underneath it a 
firm bed, which was usually slightly convex. Many 
different mixtures for this foundation are given, but 
it usually consisted of a mixture of whiting with 
white of &g^ or parchment-glue, mixed with a red 
ochre to colour it. This was laid on with a brush, 
allowed to dry, polished with a burnisher, and then 
the gold leaf attached with white of ^g<g. Ultimate- 
ly the gold leaf was also burnished with the dog's 
tooth or other burnisher. 



Theoldgoldleafwas, itmustbe remembered,much 
thicker than the gold leaf of to-day, and was some- 
times laid on two or three layers thick before burn- 
ishing. The other method of using gold was to grind 
up the leaf with white of egg or gum and then paint 
it on. This gold paint was also capable of some par- 
tial burnishing, apparently, from the directions given, 
but was as a rule left dead. It is used in two ways, 
namely, as part of the decorative scheme, and also 
as a yellow in high lights. Very often a rich effect 
is produced by many very fine lines of this dead gold 
running through a piece of painting. In the particu- 
larexampleof anilluminated^(?0/^ of Hours, given on 
page 250, the dead gold is represented entirely by 
yellow in the reproduction. If the page is held so 
as to look straight at it, the gold has merely a yellow 
effect; but the slightest movement of the position of 
the pages bririgs out the metallic sheen. 1 1 is practic- 
ally impossible to reproduce the delicate interlacing 
of gold paint by means of modern methods of repro- 
duction. This Book of Hours, which is in the pos- 
session of the University of Edinburgh, is a very 
dainty little volume, bound in velvet, and written 
upon vellum, with ornamented borders and fine 
miniatures, in the first of which is painted the arms 
of the Duke of Anjou. On the flyleaf it is written 



Bri^M GritHS, probaily vrrdigHs; Blues, frohably 

nltramarine; also t'ermiliim and foaiify Lake, 

1 ell«ws—Gold I'mtt. {Eiiin. Univ. Lilirary) 

rage igv. 


that it became in 1586 the property of the Che- 
valier Balthazar Remiel, and that it had belonged 
to his grandmother, Joan Bertrand. It is apparent- 
ly late fifteenth-century French work. 

This use of gold as a yellow pigment is not 
peculiar to illuminators of MSS. A very remark- 
able example is to be seen in Holbein's The Am- 
bassadors, in the National Gallery, where the gold 
chain is painted with yellow ochre, with particles of 
gold leaf for the high lights. The staining of the 
vellum was not only done with murex, as Cennino 
Cennini gives several receipts for staining vellum 
different colours. These receipts are not properly 
for stains at all, as they consist of very thin washes 
of pigments mixed with a little size. Such staining, 
however, does not seem to have been common. The 
black ink used in the earlier times was simply lamp- 
black and gum water, but in later times an ink made 
like our modern ink was used. Theophilus, as we 
have seen, gives a receipt for an ink of this kind, 
containing tannic acid and iron. These inks have in 
many cases badly faded. The older ink is quite in- 
destructible, and corresponds to what we now know 
as Indian ink, Vermilion and red lead are used for 
red inks. The many pigments already described are 
available for miniature-painting, but judging by 



their appearance the actual palette was fairly limited. 
Verdigris is easily recognised in many cases, and red 
lead and vermilion, lake and ultramarine. 

How far the " folium " colours were used it is 
difficult to say, but it is very unlikely that they have 
stood the test of time. Many hues of the fugitive 
pigments already described were not necessarily un- 
suitable for illuminating MSS., as they were so sel- 
dom exposed to the light. The mediums were, as 
we have seen, white of egg, parchment-glue, gum, 
fish-glue, and for verdigris merely wine, the verdi- 
gris being worked in more as a stain than as a pig- 
ment. The selection of these mediums for certain 
pigments was somewhat capricious, and the advice 
of Theophilus on this matter has already been quot- 
ed on page 167. Probably of these mediums white 
of egg proved the best and safest, and gum the 
worst, as it would be more likely to crack and flake 
off. For those who may wish to revive and experi- 
ment on the illuminating of vellum, therefore, the 
best advice would be to buy dry pigments, and to 
grind them in white of egg as wanted, and to use 
thick gold leaf, both for laying on as leaf and for 
grinding up with white of egg as paint. If the pig- 
ments are carefully selected there should be no diffi- 
culty in producing beautiful and permanent work. 




In discussing the pigments used in classical times 
we have found that the preparation of pigments 
from animal and vegetal dyes was evidently under- 
stood. The simplest form of such a pigment is the 
colouring matter extracted from a plant and evapor- 
ated to a thick consistency and mixed with gypsum 
or chalk. Such a preparation is, however, unsatis- 
factory, because the pigment is not really suited to 
the chalk base. Another method of using such ex- 
tracts is to mix them with a little gum or glue water, 
and lay them on as transparent stains upon the sur- 
face. In the case, however, of many of the most 
brilliant and permanent dyes the colour is not pro- 
perly developed under these conditions, and a mor- 
dant of some kind is required which, uniting chemi- 
cally with the dye, fixes it to the cloth, or chalky 



base, and at the same time develops its colour. In 
some cases, for instance, the colour of the mordanted 
dye is quite different from that of the dye itself. 
To give a striking example, alizarin, the dyeing 
principle of the madder root, is an orange-yellow 
colour, but when mordanted into the cloth with alum 
is red. The dyes from madder (red to crimson), 
woad (blue), weld (yellow), kermes (red to crimson), 
and murex seem to have been known from very 
early times; and to this list we can add others, such 
as the dyes from certain lichens like litmus, and 
the yellow dyes from Persian berries and quercitron 
bark. The dyes from saffron- or Brazil-wood do 
not seem to have been known in classical times, but 
were very familiar from the thirteenth century on- 
ward. As already explained, in the first instance 
a base such as a chalk was usually used, and alum 
or some similar and closely related body used as 
the mordant ; while in the case of the Egyptian 
madder the base was gypsum and the mordant 
lime. But in later times the use of alum as a mor- 
dant was extended to the use of alumina as a base. 
If alum is dissolved in water and some soda added, 
a white, flocculent, translucent precipitate of alu- 
mina is formed, which, if dried and ground in water 
or in oil, is almost transparent. If the alum or 



soda solution contains also in solution a suitable 
dye, then the precipitate during formation absorbs 
the dye, and the resulting product is what is now 
known as a "lake," whether the dye be madder, 
or cochineal, or another. Accordingly we find that 
the earliest receipts are for pigments prepared as 
in the classical times on a chalky base, the dis- 
covery of how to obtain what we mean by a lake 
coming later. Accordingly we find in the older 
MSS. receipts for preparing lakes of the simplest 

For instance, a receipt for the preparation of lake 
in this way occurs in the manuscript of E radius, 
which is regarded as not being later than the 
thirteenth century : — 

" Thus when painters wish to imitate sil atticum 
they put dried violets into a vase of water over the 
fire to boil, and when boiled down they are strain- 
ed through a linen cloth, and rubbed down in a 
mortar with chalk, and so a colour like sil atticum 
is made." 

Again we find E radius says : — 

" F^ores in varies qui vult mutare colores, 
Causa scribendi quos libri pagina poscit, 
Est opus ut segetes in summo mane pererret, 
Et tunc diversos floras ortuque recentes." 


" Inveniet properetque sibi decerpere eosdem, 
Cumque domum fuerit, caveat ne ponat in unutn, 
Illos, sed faciat quod talis res sibi poscit 
Desuper equalem petram contriveris istos 
Flores; incoctum pariter turn contere gypsum, 
Sic tibi siccatos poteris servare colores. 
Ex quibus in viridem si vis mutare colorem, 
Calcem commisce cum floribus ; inde videbis 
Quod tibi mandavi, veluti prius ipse probavi." 

The above quotations are taken from Mrs Merri- 
field's translation of the manuscripts of one "Jehan 
le Begue,'' notary to the masters of the mint in 
Paris, who compiled them (1431) from the manu- 
scripts of one " Jehan Alcherius." They contain 
the receipts collected by Jehan Alcherius himself, 
the manuscripts of Petrus de S. Audemar, of E ra- 
dius, and part of that of Theophilus. Mrs Merri- 
field has corrected the version of E radius, and the 
manuscripts of Jehan le Begue, by the copy of 
E radius bound up with Theophilus, and found by 
Raspe in Trinity College Library, Cambridge, 
now at the British Museum (Egerton Manuscripts, 

It will be seen that when a purple colour is re- 
quired, a neutral substance is used; when a green, 
lime is added. The colour in the former receipt is 
consequently green. 



In order to use the colours thus prepared for illu- 
minated manuscripts, they were mixed with a little 
gum arable or white of egg beaten up, directions for 
this occurring frequently. I have prepared a green 
pigment by boiling the petals of violets with water, 
filtering and evaporating the filtrate slowly with a 
little French chalk and gum arable. 

The result shows that such pigments can be pre- 
pared with no great difficulty, and would doubtless 
give soft and pleasing tints. 

Eraclius gives also another method of preparing 
lake by allowing ivy juice to slowly evaporate in a 
porous jar till thick enough to use as a colour. 

" De Edera et Lacca 
Propositis rebus edere satis utile robur. 

Vere novo, reduci cum gaudent omnia succo, 
Arboribusque refert humor, . . . 

Nam subula rami, loca per deserta forati, 
Emittunt viscum, quem qui sibi sumpserit ilium, 
Transferet in rubeam coctum prurigine formam ; 
Sanguineumque sibi leviter capit ille colorem, 
Hunc sibi pictor amat et scriptor diligit eque. 
Hinc etiam roseo fit parcia tincta colore. 
Quae quoque caprinas, quae pelles tingit ovinas." 
257 17 


The preparation of a lake from ivy is also de- 
scribed by Petrus de S. Audemar/ He advises the 
addition of madder, straining through a cloth, and 
then evaporating over a fire. "And while it is on the 
fire, put it frequently with a twig upon your rod to 
try it. If it is thick enough, let it cool and harden, 
so that you may be able to make it into cakes." 

In this receipt he says take lac, that is, the gum of 
ivy; andinother receipts the month of Marchismen- 
tioned as the right time to collect the gum from the 
young twigs. This gum is referred to in Balfour's 
Manual of Botany, and is stated to have certain 
medicinal properties, but it is not mentioned in the 
Pharmacopoeia, and the wholesale druggists know 
nothing of it. I have not been successful in prepar- 
ing such a lake from the young twigs of English ivy 
— the expressed juice merely drying up into a dark 
green — but I have obtained a yellow gum from the 
ivy in Italy, which, on exposure to air, darkens 
gradually to a ruby colour on the outside. Appar- 
ently, however, to get a fine colour from it, the 
Italian sun is necessary. 

We soon find, however, that these methods are 
replaced by more scientific ones, derived from the 

' Supposed to be not later than the end of the thirteenth century. 
Contains some receipts from Clavicula. A twelfth-century MS. 



art of dyeing, which, of course, reached great per- 
fection in very early times. In the MS. of Jehan le 
Begue we find several receipts for the preparation 
of lakes in the modern method, which, as they were 
compiled by him from the MSS. of Alcherius, be- 
long to the fourteenth century.^ 

We find in these receipts the substance from which 
the colouring matter is to be obtained is first to be 
boiled in a ley, made from wood ashes, or with a 
stale urine, and then the colour precipitated by the 
addition of alum. Traces of the older method, how- 
ever, are to be found, as frequently the addition of 
gypsum as well as alum is mentioned. Some of 
these receipts indicate considerable knowledge of 
the properties of alum basic salts, and their tend- 
ency to form a precipitate under certain conditions. 
The following quotations from Mrs Merrifield's 
translation of the manuscripts of Jehan le B^gue 
will serve to illustrate the methods used in the four- 
teenth century : — 

" To make a rose colour. — Take brixillium scraped 
very fine with a knife or with glass, and tie it in a 

* For instance, we find " Continentur hoc volumine de coloribus ad 
pingendum capitulascriptaet notata a JohanneArcherio seu Alcherio, 
Anno Domine 1398, ut accepit a Jacobo Cona, flamingo pictore Com- 
morante tunc Parisiis," and so on, from Jehan le B^gue. 



fine piece of linen, not tight, but loose and easy. 
And put it, tied up in that manner, into a new glaz- 
ed earthen jar, to soak in ley or in urine; and if the 
urine is stale, so much the better. If you cannot 
have any such, take very strong ley and put with 
the said piece of linen containing the brixillium 
some of the white chalk of three or four times the 
weight of the brixillium, more or less, as by looking 
at it you may think fit, according to the goodness 
of the brixillium. Afterwards add some pulverised 
raw alum, in quantity about one-fourth of the chalk 
or thereabouts, more or less, and mix all the things 
together, always leaving the said brixillium tied up 
in the said piece of linen, and leave it so for about 
one hour. Next place the jar upon a fire, not of 
wood, but of charcoal, and let it boil, but not too 
fast, for the space of a quarter of an hour or less, so 
as just to melt the alum. Then take the said bag 
of brixillium out of the vase, and press it and screw 
it out well, in order that the whole of the colour 
may run out of it in the said vase; and then remove 
the colour, hot as it is, from the fire, and put it on 
a hollow lump of chalk or upon a brick of baked 
clay, in order that the urine or ley may be immedi- 
ately absorbed into the stone, and the colour itself 
remain thickened and half dry. Afterwards let it 



dry completely in the sun, and then remove the 
colour, which is of a rose colour, from the stone or 
brick with a knife, and put it by for use. When you 
wish to use it, take as much as you require and pow- 
der it, that is, grind it upon a hard and smooth stone 
with gum water, which must be made of two-third 
parts of gum arabic dissolved in so small a quantity 
of water as barely to cover the colour when the 
water is added and strained through a linen cloth, 
and one-third part of clear water mixed with the said 
gum so dissolved and strained. And with the gum 
water, thus made, temper your rose colour to a pro- 
per consistence, and use for whatever you please." 

As a further example of the methods employed, 
the following receipt from a MS., not later than the 
middle of the fifteenth century, may be taken : — ^ 

" To make good and fine lake. — Take i lb. of clip- 
pings of rosato, and put them into very strong ley 
made of ashes, such as the dyers use, in a new glazed 
jar, and set it on the fire to boil, and boil it slowly 
for the space of two paternosters ; then pass the ley 
and the shavings through a clean linen strainer, and 
press it strongly with the hand, so that all the ley 
may pass out ; then put back the ley to boil again 

' This manuscript was found by Mrs Merrifield in the library of 
RR. Canonici Regolari Convent of S. Salvatore in Bologna. 



without the clippings, and when it is boiled, throw 
it on the shavings which are in the strainer, and 
press the strainer hard with the hand, so that all the 
ley may run out, and put it by. Throw away the 
shavings and wash the strainer well, so that there 
may not remain in it any of the hairs of the shavings. 
Next take 5 ozs. of roche alum in fine powder, and 
put it, a little at a time, into the ley, until the ley be- 
gins to settle, which you may know by its turning 
almost entirely to a thick scum from top to bottom, 
and you must keep on mixing the ley with a clean 
spoon until it becomes cool and settles; then put 
the ley into the clean strainer and strain it all off, 
and the lake will remain on the strainer. Let it re- 
main on the strainer until quite dry, and then put it 
into a small basin of glazed earth full of clear and 
cold water, and stir and rub it up well with the hand 
until it diffuses itself; all the scum which rises to the 
top at first must be thrown away with a feather ; 
then wash the strainer well and pour into it the water 
in which you have put the lake, and the clear water 
will pass out along with the alum, and this is called 
purifying it from the alum. And when the lake is 
nearly dry, remove it from the strainer, and spread 
it out with a broad knife on a new tile. Let it dry 
in the shade, and before it has done drying, cut it 



into pieces, according to your fancy, and let it dry, 
and it is done. And know that the more it is purified 
from the alum, the more beautiful, and lively, and 
the better it is. And observe this secret, that if you 
wish to have the lake a brighter colour and one 
which will never change, when the shavings are 
boiling, add a lump of assafetida as large as a chest- 

These two receipts give in some detail thegeneral 
methods in use during the fifteenth, sixteenth, and 
seventeenth centuries for the preparation of lakes. 
There are, however, certain variations in detail that 
are worth noting. The introduction of assafetida is 
not again suggested, but in a receipt of later date 
the substance is boiled with fennel seed. This receipt 
is worth quoting in full, as it shows that they were 
aware that under certain conditions the colour would 
carry down alumina without the addition of an 
alkali : — 

" To make a most beautiful purple lake. — Take an 
ounce of fine granaorcochineal, a quarter of anounce 
of roche alum, and about a boccale full of common 
water. Boil the water with a quarter of an ounce of 
fennel seed until it is diminished one-third; then add 
the grana or cochineal finely pulverised, and boil the 
whole over a slow fire for a quarter of an hour; then 



add the pulverised roche alum, and let it boil for an- 
other quarter of an hour. After this, take it from 
the fire, strain it through a linen cloth into a new 
and unglazed earthen porringer, and leave it there 
for eight days. You must then decant the water, or 
take it up gently with a sponge, evaporating the little 
which remains, until the colour is condensed, which 
you must afterwards keep in shells, adding to it a 
little lemon juice." ^ 

I have tested this receipt, and find that a precipi- 
tate is thrown down of a purple colour. The addi- 
tion of lemon juice referred to here, and in some 
other receipts, causes the lake to become more of a 
crimson and less of a purple. 

Occasionally lime is to be added to the ley, pre- 
pared from wood ashes, thus making it into caustic 
potash ; and in one receipt we are told that the urine 
must be kept twenty days, then boiled, skimmed, 
and filtered. Occasionally lime-water alone is pro- 
posed instead of ley. Alum is usually called roche 
alum, but occasionally an alum zuccarino is men- 
tioned. The addition of tartar is mentioned in a 
receipt in the Padua MS., and the addition of sal 
gemma, or pure rock salt, is once or twice referred to. 

1 From a MS. in the library of the University of Padua, date prob- 
ably the middle of the seventeenth century. 



Occasionally the addition of powdered travertine, 
egg shells, or fish-bones is advised ; and directions 
are frequently given for filtering the ley through the 
wood ashes several times with a view to obtaining 
a saturated solution. I n a receiptgiven by Alcherius, 
a little ley is added to the alum before adding the 
alum solution to the coloured liquid, thus preparing 
a basic salt. In more than one receipt the lake is to 
be strained through linen, after the addition of the 
alum. Apparently this would stop the pieces of dye- 
wood or the grana from passing through, while al- 
lowing the passage of the alumina. To understand 
this, we must remember the loose weaving of linen 
at that time. When the lake itself is to be filtered, a 
woollen bag is usually prescribed, shaped like the 
hood of a Capuchin friar. In some receipts we are 
told to dry the lake in the shade, and not in the sun- 
light, and occasionally the directions for filtering are 
omitted. The washing of the lake is hardly ever 
referred to. 

In conclusion, we may sum up the methods used 
by saying that they consisted in boiling the dye- 
stuff with an alkahne solution, and precipitating the 
colouring matter with alum. 

Passing from the methods of preparation, the sub- 
stances usually used to prepare these lakes require 



next to be considered. A very large number of sub- 
stances seem to have been used at different times 
for the preparation not only of rose colours, but also 
ofblue,green,and yellow lakes. For instance, East- 
lake (p. 441, Materials for a History of Oil-Paint- 
ing) mentions graines d' Avignon, weld, broom, 
curcuma, saffron, aloes, and the inner bark of vari- 
ous trees, as used for the preparation of yellow lakes. 
De Mayerne (1573-1655), a friend of Rubens, men- 
tions a green lake prepared from buckthorn {Rham- 
nus catkarticus), and Hoogstraten says, " With us 
lakes are in use, not only the purple, but the blue, 
green, brown, or tints of yellow lakes." These quo- 
tations are sufficient alone to show the large number 
of lakes in use at various periods in the history of 
art, and effectually dispose of those who imagine 
the old masters to have been confined to using a few 
colours only. Anyonewho holds this view need only 
study the "Tabula de Vocabulis Sinonimis et Equi- 
vocis colorum," at the beginning of the MSS. of 
Jehanle Begue, to abandon it at once. Nevertheless, 
though so many lakes were known, those of most 
importance seem to have been the rose-coloured 
lakes. I shall therefore pass over my experiments 
on lakes from broom and from saffron, and consider 
only the substances used for the preparation of rose- 



coloured lakes, but I shall also include the prepar- 
ation of lake from madder. 

The rose-coloured lake prepared from ivy gum 
has already been considered, In the later receipts 
we find Indian lac, Brazil-wood, and kermes re- 
peatedly referred to. I shall begin by considering 
the lakes prepared from Indian lac. 

It is sometimes doubtful whether the word lac 
or lacca refers to the red resin from India, or to ivy- 
juice, whichisoccasionallycalled lac; butitisevident- 
ly the Indian resin in the later manuscripts, and 
we find that it was imported for dyeing into Spain 
and Provence as early as 1220. The colouring 
matter in this resin is due to the coccus lacca, which 
lives on the twigs of trees of the species Butea, 
Ficus, and Croton. These insects become embed- 
ded in the resin which exudes from the tree, thus 
forming a red resinous mass, which is imported 
under the name of stick lac, and probably corre- 
sponds to thesubstance known as Indian lac in olden 
times. It is customary now, however, to soften the 
resin in water, when it is removed from the tree, by 
which the colouring matter is largely extracted, and 
the resin known as shellac separated. The solution 
of the colouring matter is then evaporated down 
into cakes known as lac dye. Until quite recently 



a considerable quantity of lac dye was sent into 
England, and I had some difficulty in obtaining a 
pound of it. The sample I obtained has been, I 
should think, overheated during evaporation, and 
the colour partly burnt. As showing the identity of 
stick lac with the Indian lac of olden times, I may 
mention that it is stated in the Padua MS. already 
referred to, that on separating the colouring matter, 
a colourless resin would be left behind, which could 
be used for making varnishes. I have prepared — 
(i) some of the lac dye ground with gum; (2) a 
lake prepared by boiling the lac dye with a solution 
of soda, filtering and precipitating filtrate with alum; 
(3) a lake prepared by boiling stick lac with soda, 
filtering and precipitatingwith alum. This lake may 
be considered to correspond closely to that used by 
the old masters. 

Another substance largely used for preparing 
lakes is a dye-wood known as verzino, berxillium, 
brexillium, brasillium, and Brazil-wood. It has long 
been known as a dye-wood, being mentioned in 
the book of " Roots," by Rabbi David Kimchi, and 
was called by the Arabs albakim or bacam {bakkam). 
According to Marco Polo, the best quality grew in 
Ceylon. It was afterwards discovered in, and im- 
ported from, South America, and it has been sug- 



gestedthat Brazil takes its name from the fact of this 
wood being found there. No wood of this name is 
now imported from the East, but similar dye-woods, 
known as Sapan-wood, Saunders-wood, and Buc- 
wood, are imported from the East, while the name 
Brazil-wood is confined to that sent from South 
America. The different dye-woods are all varieties 
of Caesalpinia, and probably the dye-woods now 
sent from the East are the old verzino or brexillium. 
I have prepared a lake from Brazil-wood by boiling 
it with soda and then precipitating with alum. This 
is probably very similar to the lakes obtained from 
this wood by the old receipts. 

As a rule, we expect to find that substances in 
favour with the old masters for the preparation of 
colours would yield permanent pigments ; but this 
is not so in the case of Brazil-wood, all these dye- 
woods yielding fugitive dyes. 

We shall have to consider the question of the use 
of fugitive lakes when we come to treat of the medi- 
ums with which the pigments were ground. 

The most famous of all red dyes is that obtained 
from kermes, a small insect of the same genus as 
the cochineal insect, and known as the coccus ilicis, 
which is found on the prickly oak or ilex round the 
coasts of the Mediterranean, the best quality com- 



ing from Arcadia. The female coccus is collected 
from the trees, and, as collected, looks like small 
scarlet berries, which crush to powder in the hand. 
The first mention of this dye occurs in the directions 
for the curtains of the Temple (Exodus xxvi. i) ; 
and it seems to have been used from the earliest 
times for the production of a red dye. Professor 
Middleton has shown me some pieces of cloth from 
the tombs in Middle Egypt, dating from 300 A.D., 
which he believes to be dyed with kermes, and in 
which the colour is perfectly bright and fresh. It 
can be traced as a dye through the Middle Ages in 
the south of Europe. It was mentioned in a com- 
mercial agreement between Bologna and Ferrara 
in 1 193 ; and Florence and Venice were famous for 
stuffs dyed with it in the fifteenth century. 

The Italian name for the dye was grana, from 
which comes the English phrase " to dye in grain " ; 
and Shakespeare has given his testimony to the 
permanency of the dye, when he makes Olivia say 
of her complexion, " Tis in grain, sir ; 'twill endure 
wind and weather." 

Hellot, in his U Art de Teinture (1701), pp. 244 
and 264, says that the figures in the old Brussels 
tapestries, two hundred years old, and dyed with this 
substance, are perfectly fresh ; and Berthollet states 



the dye to be quite permanent, in his work on dye- 
ing. It continued to be used till the introduction of 
cochineal from America in the sixteenth century, by 
which it was gradually replaced. Apparently Cortes 
first sent reports of the cochineal insect to Europe 
in 1523, and we find that Matthioli mentions it as 
quite common in 1549; and in the Padua MS. already 
referred to a receipt for lake is given, in which either 
grana or cochineal is advised to be used, showing 
that at that time cochineal had partly, but not en- 
tirely, replaced kermes. It is still used in Persia as a 
dye, but is no longer an article of commerce. The 
samples I have obtained were given me by the late 
William Morris, who imported it for dyeing his 
finest redsfortapestry weaving. Lakeprepared from 
it was known as lacca dicimatura di grana da rosato, 
and was almost always prepared from the clippings 
of the cloth dyed with kermes. I n the receipt quoted 
we are directed to take these clippings, which ap- 
parently were the loose pieces of wool trimmed off 
the cloth before it left the dyer's hands, and could 
apparently be obtained by the painters in sufficient 
quantity from the dyers. I therefore asked Mr 
Morris to dye a piece of cloth for me with kermes, 
in order that I might test this method of preparing 
the lake. 



The process of dyeing it was very simple. The 
cloth being mordanted with alum containing a little 
tartar, and then dyed in a water solution of the 
kermes, the whole of the kermes was absorbed by 
the cloth. I have boiled a piece of this cloth with 
soda, strained off the solution, and precipitated it 
with alum. The lake thus prepared does not differ 
appreciably from the lakes prepared from kermes 

The first receipt for the preparation of the lake 
directly from kermes that we find occurs in the 
L'Arte Vetraria, by Neri (1612). This book, 
though mainly confined to the preparation of col- 
ours for staining glass, contains some receipts in the 
seventh book for the preparation of lakes, and in 
chapter xix. Neri states that, finding in Pisa "non 
occorre Cimatura, non Maestra, " he prepared kermes 
lake by boiling the kermes with a solution of alum, 
allowing it to stand for some days, and filtering. I 
find that if kermes is boiled with alum in this way, 
and allowed to stand, the precipitate of a rose-col- 
oured lake is gradually formed. Some receipts also 
occur in the Padua MS. for the preparation of a lake 
direct from kermes. I have made a lake prepared 
by boiling kermes with soda, filtering, and pre- 
cipitating with alum. 



As already stated, few references to lakes pre- 
pared from madder occur. It was largely used for 
dyeing, and was therefore probably used for the pre- 
paration of lakes. Besides references to it in the 
MSS. of Eraclius and Petrus de S. Audemar, Theo- 
philus refers to a substance called "menesch," which 
seems to be a corruption of the Indian name of the 
root mnitsch ; and Neri gives a madder lake receipt 
in the L Arte Vetraria, book vii., chapter cxviii. 

It is hardly necessary to collect examples for its 
use as a dye, but, in passing, we may mention that 
some of the cloth from the Egyptian tombs, already 
referred to, is evidently dyed with madder, the colour 
being perfectly preserved. It is mentioned in the 
statutes of Marseilles (1287), its cultivation was 
much encouraged by the Emperor Charles V. in 
Holland, and the curious regulations as to its use 
by the greater dyers only, show in how much esteem 
it was held. 

In my experiments on madder lakes, I have made 
use of the preparation known as alizarin. 

In conclusion, I would like to point out that, with 
the exception of madder, the lakes described are 
all very similar in tone of colour, I have described 
them as rose-coloured lakes, translating by this 
word the words roseli, roxita, roxeum, roxaceum, 

273 18 


roseo, rosa, and so on. A receipt given in the Padua 
MS. helps us to settle what was meant by the de- 
scription "rose-coloured," and to confirm my belief 
that the lakes I have made closely resemble those 
made during the best period of art. The receipt is 
as follows : — 

" To make Brazil-wood of four colours. — Take 
Brazil-wood, and steep any quantity you please (so 
that it is more than a third part) in clear water, until 
the colour is very red (rosso). Then divide this 
colour into four parts. If you wish to make a rose 
colour {rosato), use it pure ; if you wish it purple 
{J>avona32o), use lime-water, but the water must be 
tepid ; if you wish a violet colour [violato), add a ley 
to it ; and if you desire that it should be of a mul- 
berry colour (morello), add tartar." 

I have stained (i) a piece of paper with Brazil- 
wood water, and therefore the rosato colour, which 
is a purplish red ; (2) a piece of paper stained with 
Brazil-wood water, rendered alkaline with soda, and 
therefore of the violato colour. 

Even if weincludemadderamongst the lakes they 
used, they had evidently nothing which correspond- 
ed in tint to the cochineal lakes, or so-coloured mad- 
der lakes used by modern artists. This, doubtless, 
accounts for the fact which I have been told by ex- 



perts, that modern lakes cannot be used in copying 
the old masters. 

It may be asked how the magnificent reds were 
produced by means of these lakes. The following 
quotation from the Padua MS. throws some light 
upon this : — 

" 7. The mixtures of cinnabar. — The colour of 
ripe strawberries is imitated with cinnabar and lake. 
Scarlet is made {scarlato) with cinnabar, lake, and 
white lead. Blood colour is made with cinnabar and 
lake. The red colour on the cheeks of beautiful 
flesh is represented with cinnabar, lake, and white 

I have tried some experiments on this point, and 
find that very rich crimsons can be obtained by glaz- 
ing one of these rather dull purple-coloured lakes 
over vermilion, and many rich robes in the pictures 
at the National Gallery can be matched in this 
way, though they are usually somewhat browner 
in tone. An interesting example of a figure just 
ready for such glazing is the St John in the En- 
tombment of Christ (790), apparently painted in 
red lead. 

Examples of the purple lakes themselves can also 
be found in many pictures, and in various states of 
preservation ; some very bright (see angel's robe 



in the Botticelli, 275), some very much faded (see 
the Roger Van der Weyden, 664). 

The combined red produced by glazing the lake 
over vermilion is less likely to alter seriously with 
time, because the dulling of the lake is compensated 
for by the fading of the lake, and therefore the shin- 
ing through of the vermilion. I have found, for in- 
stance, that even Brazil-wood lake, used in this way, 
produced a fairly durable red. 

With reference to the permanence or otherwise 
of the lakes described above, Brazil-wood fades in 
a few weeks, or on exposure in a south window ; 
lac lake is half gone in a couple of months ; kermes 
is considerably faded in twelve months ; while under 
the same tests madders are unchanged. None, 
therefore, of these old lakes can be recommended 
for reintroduction ; but if a lake is required for glaz- 
ing vermilion, some shades of purple madders are 
probably better than even kermes. 

It is evident from this inquiry that while these 
lakes may have been suitable for illuminatingbooks, 
they were not suitable for pictures to be exposed to 
the light; and while, as has already been explained, 
in many cases they have faded, and in other cases 
the magnificent deep rich reds consist of a faded lake 
over vermilion or red lead, yet there are many other 



cases where the pure lake has stood perfectly, not 
only in oil, but also in tempera. It is difificult, there- 
fore, to resist the conclusion that these were madder 
lakes, in spite of the fact that receipts for madder 
lakes are almost entirely absent. There are two 
possible explanations. One is, that even in Cennino 
Cennini's time lakes were manufactured and pur- 
chased by the painter, and in fact Cennino Cennini 
advises the painter to purchase his lake, and in ad- 
dition gives him the bad advice to buy a lake made 
from lac, if by this the Indian lac is meant; and 
therefore trade processes of making lakes from 
madder may have been known which do not appear 
in the monk's receipts. The other explanation is 
that in many cases the red cloth clippings used may 
have been originally dyed with madder, and so a 
very pure madder lake would be obtained. In fact, 
it is difificult to make a fine-coloured lake from the 
madder root direct, and it would be better for the 
unskilled worker to use the dyed cloth as the source 
of his alizarin or madder extract. There is also the 
uninvestigated but unlikely possibility that the ivy 
gum lake is permanent. On the whole, I think we 
must conclude that a lake from madder was often 
used, though possibly unknowingly. 

We shall also find on investigating the properties 



of varnishes that there are methods in oil-painting 
of rendering fugitive lakes permanent ; but this is 
not sufficient to explain their fine state of preserva- 
tion in tempera pictures, or in some cases on illu- 
minated MSS. which have been ruthlessly exposed 
to light in our modern museums. 



With the treatise written by Cennino Cennini we 
bring to a conclusion the description of the methods 
of painting in tempera, and must now proceed to 
an inquiry into the processes adopted by the artists 
who painted in oil. Tempera, it is true, continued 
in Italy for some time after Cennino Cennini 
wrote his treatise ; but at the very time he was en- 
gaged in writing, the brothers Van Eyck in Flan- 
ders were preparing the way for a complete revolu- 
tion in the methods and mediums employed by 

It is true, as we have already seen, that the oil 
medium had long been known, but it was now to 
assert its superiority over the egg medium and carry 
all before it. The consideration, however, of the 



period covered by the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries must be preceded by a careful inquiry into 
the earlier methods of oil-painters. Unfortunately 
for this earlier and, from our point of view, most in- 
teresting technique, thereis little information,asmost 
of the writers we possess, such as Vasari, Borghini, 
Armenini, and others, belong to the middle or the 
close of the sixteenth century, or to the seventeenth 
century, while the most interestingofall, De Mayerne, 
wrote in the beginning of the seventeenth century. 
Nor do such MSS. of " Secreti " as exist help us very 
much. At each period, however, that we have dealt 
with, we have had some documentary evidence of su- 
preme importance to guide our inquiry. The classi- 
cal period is fitly closed by the writings of Pliny; the 
mediaeval period is fully illustrated by the monk 
Theophilus; and the close of the fourteenth century 
and opening of the fifteenth century in Italy, and 
more especially the finished product of tempera- 
painting, is fully treated by Cennino Cennini. In 
the same way the technical methods at the close of 
the sixteenth century and beginning of the seven- 
teenth century, at any rate in the Flemish school, are 
most fully dealt with in the interesting MS. left by 
DeMayerne. De Mayerne himself was born in 1573 
at Geneva, and was trained for medicine in Mont- 



pelier and Paris, and was appointed one of the 
physicians - in - ordinary to Henry IV. In 1611, 
James I. invited him to England, and appointed him 
his first physician. De Mayerne enjoyed the same 
title under Charles I. He died in Chelsea in 1655, 
leaving a large fortune. He was a distinguished 
chemist, and took a special interest in the technical 
processes and materials used in painting, and was in 
close friendship with the painters of the Flemish and 
British schools. H is portrait was painted by Rubens. 
One MS. which he left behind him consists of notes 
inhis ownhand, communicationsfrom various artists, 
and short treatises, and the whole is entitled, "Pic- 
toria, Sculptoria, Tinctoria, at quae subalternarum 
Artium spectantia; in lingua Latina, Gallica,ltalica, 
Germanica conscripta, a Petro Paulo Rubens, Van 
Dyke, Somers, Greenberry, Janson.etc." The whole 
has been recently printed and translated by Herr 
Berger in the third volume of his Beitrdge sur Ent- 
•wickelungsgeschichte der Maltecknik. 

Itisfullofinterestinginformation. WefindDeMay- 
erne, for instance, trying to persuade Van Dyck to mix 
his pigments with a special varnish of his own com- 
position, but evidently Van Dyck cannot be bothered 
with it, as it does not work freely enough under the 
brush. Again, speaking of real ultramarine, for the 



preparation of which he gives receipts with which we 
are already familiar, he tells us that : " The vertues 
of it. It is the diamound of all colours by reason of 
his never-fadinge perfectione. It also comforteth the 
brayne, and therefore is very proffitable agaynst 
frensies, vertigo, palpitatio cordis, melancholia, and 
other sicknesses of the spirits." In many cases he 
comments in his marginal notes on receipts given 
by artists, giving the results of his own experiments. 
The consideration, therefore, of the De Mayerne 
manuscript, with some additional information from 
other and later writers and MSS., will guide us in 
the concluding portion of the chapters on varnishes 
and on oil-painting. We shall, however, begin by 
considering the early history both of varnishes and 
oil, and shall now proceed to the discussion of the 
nature and history of varnishes. 

In the chapters on Egypt and on classical methods 
of painting, some account was given of the prepara- 
tion of varnish es,and a distinction wasdrawn between 
what is known as a spirit varnish and an oil varnish ; 
and it was also pointed out that we have in the 
natural balsams from the tree a natural spirit var- 
nish containing volatile oils, which evaporate and 
leave the resin behind. It is necessary now to con- 
sider the whole question of varnishes more carefully 



with a view to trying to get some light upon the 
methods used by Van Eyck and his school in pro- 
tecting the pigments upon the surface of the picture. 
In the first place, it is not every resin that can be 
used for making a spirit varnish, because many of 
the harder resins are not readily soluble, amber, for 
instance, dissolving very little indeed in these medi- 
ums. It is usually the custom at the present day 
to select the harder resins for the making of oil var- 
nishes, and the process consists of, in the first place, 
fusing the resin and then mixing with the resin the 
hot oil. The whole mass is then reheated until a 
drop of the varnish drawn from the heated mass re- 
mains practically clear. It is also necessary to in- 
troduce "driers" into the varnish, such as the oxides 
of lead or other compounds of lead or manganese. 
The properties of these driers will be discussed 
in the chapters on oil-painting. The varnish is 
finally diluted with spirits of turpentine. In the 
case of some of the softer resins, such as the pine 
resins, and mastic and sandarac, there is no need 
to fuse the resin first ; they can be dissolved directly 
in the oil without previous fusion. When we come 
to the consideration of the receipts for varnish-mak- 
ingwhich are found scattered through the old manu- 
scripts, from the Lucca Manuscript onwards, one of 



the first difficulties that we find is in identifying the 
resins that were used. It is, at the present day, 
sufficiently difficult to identify the source from which 
a given resin comes, and there can be no doubt that 
in ancient times great confusion existed on this sub- 
ject. It is, therefore, a waste of ingenuity to try to 
settle exactly what resin was used in a given receipt 
from the name given to the resin, and to determine 
whether it was mastic, or sandarac, or amber. At 
the same time, we have an approximate idea what 
resins were available for varnish-making. In the 
first place, they had the natural balsams from the 
pine, such as Venice turpentine from the larch and 
oleo de abezzo from the silver pine ; and in addition 
they had the resin known as pica greca or gloriat, 
which corresponds to our modern rosin, and is left 
as a solid residue on heating the pine balsam and 
driving off the spirits of turpentine. They also had 
both masticand sandarac — sandarac which has some- 
times been mistakenly called juniper resin, but 
which isreallyaproductof the Callitris quadrivalvis, 
and is found on the Mediterranean coast of Africa, 
and apparently was at one time exported in con- 
siderable quantities from the port of Berenice (now 
Benghazi) on the African coast (not to be con- 
founded with the other Berenice on the Red Sea). 



It has been said, in fact, that the name "varnish " 
comes from the fact that sandarac was exported from 
here. We know that mastic and probably other 
resins found in the East were exported to Europe, 
and that no very clear distinction was drawn by the 
varnish-makers of the day between one resin and 
another. In addition, amber was known and ob- 
tained from the Baltic, and it is quite possible that 
at any rate occasional parcels of resins from further 
east came into the European market. If we make 
experiments, then, upon these resins, we find that 
pica greca, mastic, and sandarac can be dissolved 
directly in hot linseed oil, but amber requires first 
to be fused and then the boiling oil added to it. In 
addition, we find that the amber forms a very dark 
varnish indeed, quite unsuitable for painting, unless 
mixed with the very darkest colours ; it also dries 
very slowly, and is apt to run upon the picture. In 
fact, of all the varnishes it is perhaps the most un- 
suitable for painters' use. Many receipts have been 
suggested for making pale amber varnish, and pro- 
cesses for dissolving at any rate part of the resin 
from the amber and so utilising it ; but so far as my 
experience goes, these processes are very difficult 
and troublesome, and in many cases the paleness of 
the varnish is due to the fact that there is little or 



no amber in it. I am aware that there are var- 
nishes on the market which claim to be made of 
amber, and which are pale in colour ; but I am not 
aware of the methods of manufacture used, and while 
it is perhaps possible with the resources of modern 
chemistry to make a pale amber varnish, it is highly 
improbable that such a varnish could be prepared 
in early times, nor, judging by the receipts which 
are given in the manuscripts, and which I have 
tried, would any such pale varnish result. It is also 
highly probable that the name "amber varnish" 
was given to trade varnishes which had really no 
amber in them, as it was an obvious and pleasant 
name to give, amber being well known as a beautiful 
substance, and the varnish resembling it in appear- 
ance and colour. If, then, we find a receipt for dis- 
solving the resin directly in oil, we may assume that 
the resin was either pica greca or mastic, or pos- 
sibly sandarac ; but the harder resins are excluded, 
from theverynatureof thereceipt. The probabilities 
are that in most cases the softer resins were used. 
The next point to notice is that in many of these 
receipts the proportion of resin to gum is very high 
indeed. This indicates the use of one of the softer 
resins. For instance, it is common to find that to 
three parts of oil one of sandarac is to be added 



and two parts of pica greca, thus forming a mixture 
which is as much resin as oil. Such varnishes would 
be very thick, and would require to be thinned by- 
means of oil or some other medium before they could 
be used, or rubbed on hot. If, however, mastic and 
pica greca were the resins selected, they would be 
quite pale in colour ; and even a varnish which is 
nearly solid from excess of sandarac is not very dark, 
and could be used, if diluted. Such receipts are 
repeated so often that I think there can be no doubt 
that the ordinary varnish used from the ninth till late 
in the fifteenth century consisted of a fairly soluble 
resin — sandarac or mastic, or both, dissolved in lin- 
seed oil, and with the addition, in many cases, of 
a considerable quantity of pica greca. We also find, 
however, several receipts in which the pine balsams 
are directly used, mixed with oil. A considerable 
variety of receipts can easily be quoted, making it 
a matter of doubt as to what kind of varnish was 
used in practice. In trying, therefore, to arrive at 
some conclusion as to what would be the best var- 
nish for the painter to select in the wish to preserve 
his picture, we must carry out experiments on the 
properties of varnishes. We shall then be in a better 
position to discuss actual receipts. 

First, we ask what varnish would prove the most 



durable under the test of time ? In the second place, 
we have to ask the question, what varnish would 
best protect the pigments from the action of air and 
moisture ? To deal for the moment with the ques- 
tion of durability, modern experience is in favour 
of the conclusion that the most durable varnishes 
are those formed from the hardest resins dissolved 
in linseed oil. For instance, the varnishes which 
are prepared for carriage-building, and more especi- 
ally for the outsides of railway carriages, are pre- 
pared from the hardest copal or kauri resin, fused, 
and then dissolved in the hot oil. These resins may 
be considered nearly as hard as amber, and, in fact, 
it is a question whether the varnishes prepared from 
them are not more durable than an amber varnish. 
They also have the advantage of being lighter in 
colour. There can be no doubt as to the greater 
durability of the hard resins, such as copal or amber, 
dissolved in oil. Next to these in durability come 
varnishes prepared with soft resins dissolved in oil ; 
while the most easily injured of all are the spirit 
varnishes, where the resin has got no elastic oil 
mixed with it. In order to bring this matter to an 
exact test, I carried out a series of experiments to 
see at what point the surface of a thoroughly dried 
varnish would break when painted upon glass and 



then subjected to a scratching pressure from a 
blunt steel point. The following figures give the re- 
sults of these tests, the pressure being measured 
in grammes : — Varnishes made with common rosin 
and linseed oil, and therefore corresponding to old 
receipts, where pica greca alone was used, broke 
down under a pressure of 250 grammes. Ordinary 
indoor floor and "oak" varnishes, suitable for wood- 
work, but not made from the hardest resins, broke 
down at 500 to 600 grammes ; while varnishes made 
from hard African copals and selected kauri (from 
New Zealand) broke down at from 900 to 1200 

I n contrast to these, spirit varnishes and linseed oil 
itself break down with a pressure of 100 grammes, 
the one splitting up like glass, the other tearing. 
If such varnishes as these are allowed to weather 
out of doors, the varnishes from the hard resins 
prove the most durable. The only trade " amber" 
varnish I tested broke down at 100 grammes. 

It is evident, then, that the modern hard copal 
varnishes are much the most durable, and would 
under severe tests long outlive the varnishes made 
according to most of the old receipts, which have 
already been briefly referred to. It does not, 
however, therefore follow that these old varnishes 

289 19 


were not durable enough for the purposes of the 

We have seen, for instance, that a pure resin var- 
nish of 1500 B.C., made from a soft resin readily 
soluble in alcohol, continues to be fresh and bright 
although the wood of the coffin is crumbling to 
powder. This varnish has of course been preserved 
under peculiarly favourable conditions ; but there is 
at any rate no evidence that a varnish of oil and 
resin or pica greca is not practically indestructible 
under favourable conditions, such as when used on 
a picture to be preserved with care from injury and 
exposure to weather. The severe tests to which 
modern varnishes are exposed throw no light on 
this question. 

I am personally disposed to think, though I know 
some leading authorities will not agree with me, 
that just as linseed oil alone has proved remarkably 
durable, so linseed oil loaded merely with common 
rosin will prove even more durable under proper 
conditions, such as when laid on a picture panel, and, 
while probably becoming covered with fine cracks, 
will not necessarily decay further. The matter, 
however, requires further investigation. 

There is, of course, also another possibility, and 
that is, that varnishes made from hard African co- 



pals were not unknown. Receipts are given which 
indicate the use of a hard resin — that is, the resin 
is first to be fused and the oil added ; and it has 
usually been assumed that these receipts are for 
amber varnish, as the recognised names for amber, 
such as glassa and karabe, are used. It is, how- 
ever, quite possible that hard copal was not clearly 
distinguished from amber, and that in many cases 
it may have come in from the East and been used 
for varnish-making. In fact, it might be suggested 
that the perfect preservation of pictures at certain 
periods may have been due to the accidental use of 
this resin for varnish-making. We shall, however, 
have next to consider varnishes from another point 
of view, an inquiry which will on the whole bring 
us back to the view that soft resins were from the 
beginning largely and freely used in painting what, 
for want of a better name, we call "oil-pictures." 
Our inquiry will be into the question of the extent 
to which oils and varnishes prepared in various 
ways will protect pigments from moisture and in- 
jurious gases. In order to settle this it is necessary 
to use a substance very sensitive to the presence 
of moisture and changing in a marked way when 
absorbing it. 

The two oils used by the old masters were linseed 


and walnut oil, and later on poppy-seed oil. As 
already stated, besides these oils, the materials for 
making varnishes were mastic, sandarac, amber, 
the balsam of the silver pine, or oleo de abezzo, the 
balsam of the larch, and possibly other Eastern 
gums. I shall not trouble you with all the learned 
discussions as to the nature of the varnishes used. 
Receipts exist in plenty, and show that in the earlier 
varnishes these substances are dissolved in oil. 
Later on, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, 
spirit varnishes were introduced — that is, the resins 
weredissolvedinturpentine or natural naphtha. The 
main distinction between modern varnishes and the 
ancient varnishes is the abandonment of amber, 
sandarac, and pine balsams, and resins, for the gums 
of the East. The peculiar properties of balsams 
will be explained in the course of this chapter. I 
may say that what now follows is an investigation 
into the capacity of various oils and varnishes of 
resisting moisture, which brings us to some curious 
and, I venture to think, new conclusions. 

When we look at the Van Eyck, No. i86 in the 
National Gallery, we are at once struck with its 
wonderful state of preservation. The reds, probably 
produced by glazings of lac, or Brazil-wood, or ker- 
mes lake, over a yellow or red ground, seem certainly 



to have slightly faded and turned brown, when 
compared with fresh preparations of the same lakes 
made from the old receipts ; but they are in a very 
fair condition, and the green on the wife's dress is 
marvellously brilliant. This green is worthy of 
special attention, as it seems to be agreed, among 
the authorities on these matters, that it can only 
have been produced by a glazing of verdigris, a pig- 
ment which we now know to be of a most dangerous 
character, turning black, and corroding and destroy- 
ing other colours. The oranges in the corner are 
apparently painted with orpiment, another danger- 
ous colour to use. 

With reference to the reds, I have already men- 
tioned the three lakes which are most commonly 
referred to in old receipts, madder being hardly ever 
mentioned. Of these, Brazil-wood is very fugitive, 
turning a dirty brownish-red, and fading very much, 
if only exposed to sunshine for a few days, Lac 
lake, though better than the last, is not a permanent 
lake, and kermes, though better than lac, is not a 
permanent lake. Unfortunately, these lakes, when 
prepared from the old receipts, are so much alike 
that it is impossible to identify them on a picture. 
Judging, however, by these receipts, one lake is as 
likely to have been used as another. 



In this picture, then, painted early in the fifteenth 
century, we probably have verdigris, a notoriously 
fugitive pigment ; orpiment, a pigment very apt to 
change ; and a lake which will fade with more or less 
rapidity,accordingto which of the three lakes above- 
mentioned has been used. 

It cannot, then, be held that the preservation of 
the picture is due to the pigments used, and we must 
therefore look elsewhere for an explanation of its 

If, then, the secret does not lie in the pigments, it 
must be in the vehicle, and this leads us to consider 
what properties a vehicle must have to produce so 
remarkable an effect. 

This question is very easily answered. 

It has been again demonstrated by Professor 
Russell and Captain Abney,in their report on water- 
colours (1888), that most fugitive pigments are per- 
manent if protected from moisture, and a still larger 
number if protected both from air and moisture. 
If, then, we can obtain a vehicle which will really 
protect the particles of the pigment from moisture, 
we may use with safety many pigments that are now 
regarded as fugitive. 

At this point one is apt to think that the inquiry 
is concluded, as we are accustomed to assume that 



ordinary varnishes and oils do preserve surfaces 
from the action of moisture ; but, unfortunately, if 
a sufficiently delicate test is applied, this is not found 
to be so. The method I have devised for doing this 
is to use as a pigment ignited sulphate of copper, 
which is of course a very hygroscopic body. If we 
grind a little of the ignited sulphate with linseed oil, 
and paint it out on a glass slide, we get an enamel- 
like white surface, with sometimes a slight greenish 
tinge in it. 

If this is placed in a desiccator to dry, it remains 
the same in appearance. If, however, when dry it 
is exposed to the air of a room, it gradually turns 
green and transparent ; or, if it is exposed under a 
bell-jar, beside a dish of water, the change takes 
place much more rapidly, twelve hours being often 
sufficient. If we now examine the slide under a 
microscope, we usually find that no definite crystal- 
line formation is visible ; but occasionally, here and 
there, are to be found complete crystals of sulphate 
of copper, due apparently to a slow aggregation of 
molecules in the colloid linseed oil. 

I shall begin by describing the experiments I have 
made on linseed oil alone. 

The linseed oil of modern commerce differs in 
several important particulars from that used by the 



old masters. Hot-pressed from the seed, and refined 
by the addition of sulphuric acid, it is probably an in- 
ferior product. The oil of the old masters seems to 
have been cold-pressed, or pressed after having been 
slightly warmed, from pure seed, and then refined 
by exposure to sunlight and washing with water. 

In converting it into boiled oil, various substances 
and methods were used, such as exposure merely to 
the sun till it thickened ; boiling with bone ashes and 
pumice ; boiling it with ignited sulphate of zinc ; ^ 
boiling it with litharge or with white lead, or with 
umber; or exposing it to the sun in leaden dishes, 
or mixed with white lead. 

The modern practice is probably in many cases 
similar, salts of manganese having been added to 
the list, and such substances as sulphate of zinc hav- 
ing been abandoned. 

My impression from the study of the old receipts 
is that probably in most cases litharge, or white 
lead, was used, just as it is most commonly used now. 
We have, then, to look rather to the earlier stages 
of the preparation of the oil, to find any serious dif- 
ference between ancient and modern practices. 

^ The use of this substance is probably accounted for by the fact 
that the crude sulphate prepared from the ore often contains mangan- 
ese. The pure sulphate has no effect on the oil. 



With a view to finding whether the capacity of 
linseed oil for resisting moisture would be improved 
by following any of the old methods, I tried the fol- 
lowing experiments. I obtained — 

1. A sample of ordinary pale drying oil of the best 

2. A bottle of drying oil from one of the leading 
firms of artists' colourmen. 

3. A sample of Bell's medium from Messrs Bell 
& Co. , of Oxford Street. This medium is prepared 
by cold-pressing carefully sifted seed, and then keep- 
ing the raw oil at a temperature of about ioo°C. for 
some weeks, until it becomes thick and viscous. This 
"fat oil" is then thinned with oil of spike for use. 

4. I obtained some raw oil, cold-pressed from sifted 
English seed, which I then refined in the following 
manner: — A bottle was filled one-third full with 
salt water and sand, and one-third full of oil, and 
was placed in the sun, with a loose cap over the 
top, for four weeks. By the end of that time no 
more precipitate was formed, and the oil was drawn 
off, filtered, and converted into boiled oil by heating 
to 100° C. for 120 hours with borate of manganese. 

Another portion, after refining, was converted 
into boiled oil, by heating strongly for three hours 
with bone ashes, adding ignited sulphate of zinc, 



and allowing it tosettle andstand in the sun, accord- 
ing to an old German receipt which is quoted by 
Eastlake in his History of Oil-Painting. Slides 
were painted out with these different oils mixed with 
sulphate of copper, and after having been dried in 
a desiccator were exposed to moisture. They all 
turned green at approximately the same rate, and 
repeated experiments did not show that one had 
much advantage over another. If a slide is var- 
nished with oil after being dry, it of course resists 
a little longer; but four layers of such varnishing 
only protect the slide for three days instead of one. 
As far, then, as these experiments are concerned, 
there seems to be no reason to suppose that the pure 
oil, sun-refined, has much advantage over the com- 
mercial oil, or that the different methods of convert- 
ing it into boiled oil exercise an appreciable effect. 
Only one point seemed to remain unsettled. It 
seemed possible that the old oil, imperfectly pressed, 
might be superior to that obtained by the hydraulic 
press. In order to test this, I had some fresh seed 
pressed, and took samplesduringthe pressing, divid- 
ing theoil into three parts. Taking the firstof these, 
I refined it, boiled it with borate of manganese, and 
tested it. The moisture penetrated through it as 



These experiments seem to show, then, pretty 
conclusively that linseed oil, no matter how pure, 
or how carefully refined, or in what way it is con- 
verted into boiled oil, cannot be depended upon to 
protect a surface from moisture. In the course of 
these experiments I was struck with the fact that 
linseed oil which had been kept for some time, after 
it was dry in the desiccator, seemed to resist better 
than lately dried oil, when exposed to moisture. 
Three weeks was found to make a considerable im- 
provement, and two months still further improve- 

When we consider the nature and constitution of 
linseed oil, I do not think we need be surprised at 
its permeability to moisture. Besides containing 
linolein, it also contains considerable quantities of 
non-drying fatty acids, which, being unaltered dur- 
ing the oxidation of the linolein, must tend to pro- 
duce a spongy and porous surface. According to 
Allen, the dried film contains free glycerine, which 
must not only tend to increase its porosity, but also 
to act as a carrier of moisture. Taking these differ- 
ent facts into consideration, the passage of moisture 
through linseed oil is not surprising. 

I should like to refer here to a theory which has 
been recently advanced, that lead driers are injuri- 



ous in pictures, on account of the formation of lead 
soaps. As far as these experiments are concerned, 
we have no confirmation of this ; and I confess that 
the theory seems to me a very startling one, in 
the light of the fact that the white lead used by 
the old masters was prepared by the Dutch pro- 
cess, and therefore contained large quantities of 
lead hydrate, and of the fact that the oldest receipt 
I am familiar with for preparing drying oil advises 
that this should be done by boiling with oxide of 

It seems to me more probable that treatment with 
lead salts may remove some of the fatty acids other 
than linoleic acid as lead soaps. I do not find, how- 
ever, that the oil which rises to the surface of ground 
white lead protects from moisture any better than 
ordinary oil. 

Walnut Oil 

Walnut oil is frequently referred to in the old re- 
ceipts, and seems to have been largely used by the 
old masters for painting. Itcanbe prepared by press- 
ing the kernels of walnuts after slightly warming 
them. The walnuts should be about three months 
old. The oil obtained is very pale, and dissolves 
white lead freely on boiling, becoming darker in 
colour. I prepared a little by boiling the kernels of 



the walnuts with water, after pounding them in a 
mortar, roughly separating the oil which rose to the 
top, dissolving the oil in ether, filtering, and eva- 
porating off the ether. I then converted this oil 
into a boiled oil by heating it with white lead. 
On testing it with the sulphate of copper, I found 
that moisture rapidly penetrated, showing that it is 
no better in this respect than linseed oil. As these 
were the two oils which were used by the old masters, 
the protection of their pigments cannot have de- 
pended upon the nature of the oil used. 


In order to test how far pure resins will protect 
the sulphate of copper from moisture, I dissolved 
them either in spirits of turpentine or in benzol, 
ground the sulphate of copper with the solution, and 
painted it out on a glass slide. I have not attempted 
an exhaustive examination of resins, but have con- 
tented myself with a few typical ones, namely, colo- 
phony, mastic, Sierra Leone copal, and amber. The 
varnishes were all prepared by first fusing the resin, 
and then gradually adding the spirits of turpentine 
to the fused mass. 

The change of appearance on exposing one of the 
slides thus prepared to moisture was quite different 



from the appearance in the case of oil. The surface 
became an opaque greenish blue in thecourseofafew 
hours in the case of colophony, mastic, and Sierra 
Leone copal, but after that there was no further 
change. On then examining these slides under the 
microscope this appearance was explained. The 
whole surface was rough and covered with blue 
cones of sulphate of copper, with unaltered white 
plains between. Apparently the varnish on drying 
became full of small cracks or holes, through which 
moisture penetrated, but in itself resisted the passage 
of moisture. These holes were so close together as 
to give the whole surface a blue appearance when 
examined with the naked eye. The one exception 
tothiswasthe amber varnish. It resisted the attacks 
of moisture for weeks without change. I think, how- 
ever, that we may consider that such solutions of 
resins protect a surface from moisture sufficiently 
well for all practical purposes. The slight change 
taking place in the sulphate of copper does not go 
any further, and would, I think, be imperceptible in 
the case of a fugitive pigment. 

I need hardly point out, however, that such solu- 
tions are quite unfit to be used as mediums in place 
of oil, and that the surface formed is brittle and not 
very durable. 



Oleoresinous Vehicles 

Eastlake, in his History of Oil-Painting, devotes 
himself principally to trying to determine what 
medium was used by Van Eyck and his immediate 
followers. As his book is the most important work 
on this subject, and he has devoted immense pains 
to investigating all the documentary evidence, the 
theory he advances requires specially careful ex- 

Briefly, his theory is this, that the Flemish painters 
ground their colours in oil, that they prepared a 
varnish by dissolving a resin, preferably amber, in 
oil,andthattheymixed a little of this with the colour. 
He claims that such a medium protects the pigments 
from moisture, and that it is only necessary in the 
case of specially fugitive pigments, such as yellow 
lake, verdigris, etc., to increase the proportion of 
varnish and diminish the proportion of oil, in order 
to effectually lock them up and protect them from 
the action of a moist climate. This he calls the oleo- 
resinous vehicle; and while this in all probability re- 
presents their usual practice for ordinary pigments, 
I think he fails to make out that they relied upon 
this method in the case of notoriously fugitive pig- 
ments. In fact, as far as the sixteenth and seven- 



teenth centuries are concerned, the evidence points 
to the use of a pure oil vehicle. 

It has been shown by Professor Church that even 
so hard a resin as copal, when dissolved in a volatile 
medium, after a year becomes covered with minute 
cracks ; that this is also true of copal dissolved in 
the usual quantity of oil necessary to make a var- 
nish. But he finds that if a copal oil varnish is mixed 
with a certain proportion of oil, it forms a surface 
which is hard, and therefore preferable to oil alone, 
which is soft, but which does not crack. There 
seems to be no doubt, therefore, that, apart from 
other considerations, the mixture of a resin dissolved 
in oil, with oil, produces the most permanent surface. 
It remains to be seen whether such a medium has 
the quality claimed for it by Eastlake of protecting 
the pigments from moisture. 

In order to experiment upon this matter, I ob- 
tained (i) a very fine sample of a genuine copal var- 
nish from Messrs Freeman ; (2) Mander Brothers, 
Coburg varnish ; (3) I dissolved Sierra Leone copal 
in my own pure linseed oil, and heated it till it be- 
came stringy, as directed in the. old receipts ; (4) I 
dissolved amber in the same way in the pure oil ; 
(5) I boiled some of the amber varnish, mixed with 
white lead till almost solid, and then diluted it with 



spirits of turpentine. I then prepared slides with 
these varnishes mixed with the sulphate of copper, 
I compared the slides painted with pure oil with 
slides painted with a mixture of oil and varnish, and 
with slides painted with the varnish alone. In some 
cases the slides, after drying, were varnished with the 
mixture that had been used in painting them out. 
In making these varnishes, I mixed about one-third 
resin with about two-thirds oil. None of these pre- 
parations resisted the attacks of moisture. Those 
containing varnish resisted a little longer than those 
merely containing oil ; but the difference was prob- 
ably due to the greater thickness of the protecting 

As far, then, as we can judge by the sulphate of 
copper test, Eastlake's theory that an oleoresinous 
vehicle will protect a fugitive pigment is not correct. 
It seemed to me necessary, however, to check these 
results by some experiments made in another way, 
and I therefore determined to try whether such me- 
diums would protect a fugitive pigment. 

In order to reproduce, as near as possible, the 
conditions necessary in the case of one of the old 
masters, I prepared some Brazil-wood lake according 
to one of the old receipts, and, after careful washing 
and drying, ground it with the following mediums: — 

305 20 


1. Commercial pale boiled oil. 

2. Rowney's boiled oil. 

3. My pure oil. 

4. The pure oil mixed with amber varnish. 

5. The pure oil mixed with copal varnish. 

All of these faded when exposed to sunlight, and 
apparently faded at the same rate. 

To confirm this result, I next rubbed out on two 
glass plates carmine ground in pure oil. After the 
two plates were dry, I put one away in the dark and 
exposed the other to light. At the same time, I 
rubbed out on two other plates carmine ground 
with pure oil and a little amber varnish, and exposed 
one of these to light. The two plates kept in the 
dark retained their brilliancy, while the two exposed 
to light quickly turned brown at the same rate. 

I think that these experiments show pretty con- 
clusively that whatever method may have been used 
to preserve fugitive pigments by the old masters, it 
cannot have been that of grinding colours with oil, 
and then mixing in a little oil varnish, as supposed 
by Eastlake. 

In order, then, to solve this problem as to the 
nature of the vehicle used to preserve fugitive col- 
ours, it is necessary to lay aside the theories of such 
writers as Eastlake, and examine carefully such old 



receipts as are available. This is all the more neces- 
sary as the word varnish is used so carelessly by 
writers on this subject, for they seem to think that 
all varnishes have similar properties, and therefore 
it does not matter whether the nature of the varnish 
is stated or not. To begin. with the oldest receipts, 
we find the varnishes there mentioned are all oil 
varnishes. Besides oil, they contain amber, or san- 
darac, and Pice Greca (rosin), and later on balsams, 
such as Venice turpentine, or oleo de abezzo (the 
balsam of the silver pine). Very large quantities of 
these balsams were sometimes used. For instance, 
in one old receipt a varnish is recommended con- 
sisting of three parts Venice turpentine, three parts 
of oil, and one part of mastic ; while in another 
receipt two parts of Venice turpentine to one part of 
oil is given. Such varnishes must be considered 
simply as balsams, slightly diluted with oil to make 
them flow better and give greater toughness to the 
surface. The receipts for these varnishes will be 
considered in greater detail later on. 

Apparently the first spirit varnishes, by which I 
mean in this case varnishes formed by dissolving a 
resin or a balsam, or both, in spirits of turpentine or 
natural naphtha, were invented in Italy, and thence 
found their way back to Flanders, the first home of 



oil-painting ; but they are not mentioned till the 
sixteenth century, and the records that have been 
left of the methods used by Van Eyck and his 
followers are so scanty, that we cannot speak with 
certainty on this point. 

The first scientific account that we get of the 
methods of the Flemish painters is that given by De 
Mayerne, referred to already as our best authority, 
a friend of Rubens and Van Dyck. In the receipts 
given by him, Venice turpentine is frequently men- 
tioned as a suitable substance for the preparation of 
varnishes, and he advises that it should be dissolved 
either in naphtha or spirits of turpentine, with the 
occasional addition of mastic, or with the addition 
of a few drops of oil to give it toughness. 

Perhaps the most interesting of his receipts is the 
one in which he tells how verdigris can be prepared 
by dissolving it in Venice turpentine and spirits of 

The Italian painters seem to have preferred oleo 
de abezzo, as lighter in colour and quicker in dry- 
ing ; and in one of the receipts given in the Paduan 
MS. (seventeenth century) it is stated that amber 
can be dissolved in such a balsam. Apparently, in 
the time of Rubens, the custom had grown up in 
Flanders of varnishing pictures after they were 



finished, which was not done in the days of Van 
Eyck. Doubtless, therefore, the varnishes men- 
tioned by De Mayerne are meant for covering fin- 
ished pictures, and the receiptfor preparingverdigris 
is not apparently for painting purposes. To carry 
down the tradition as to the use of Venice turpentine, 
it is only necessary to refer to the canvas of Sir J oshua 
Reynolds, in the possession of the Royal Academy, 
where the dab of paint labelled gamboge, plus Ven- 
ice turpentine, is perfectly fresh, while the dab 
labelled gamboge, plus oil, has completely faded. 
Sufficient has been said to show the necessity of 
investigating the properties of such substances, 
though there is no definite evidence that they were 
ever used as painting mediums. 

I have experimented upon three balsams : Venice 
turpentine,^ Canada balsam, and the balsam of the 
silver pine. On testing with sulphate of copper, I 
found that Venice turpentine completely excluded 
moisture. Canada balsam did so for a long time, 
several weeks, but seemed to slowly yield. I have 
not tested oleo de abezzo in this way. When used 

I I obtained a sample of genuine Venice turpentine with some diffi- 
culty in London. Through the kindness of the Curator of the Cam- 
bridge Botanical Gardens I obtained some larch balsams from trees 
there, and some balsam of the silver pine from the Black Forest. 



as mediums, the addition of a very little oil, about 
quarter of the weight of the balsam, suffices to make 
it thin enough to grind colours in. Hard resins, such 
as amber and copal, readily dissolve in them, thus 
forming compound varnishes. A good picture var- 
nish is copal dissolved in Venice turpentine and 
diluted with turps or with naphtha. 

The oleo de abezzo is a beautiful pale yellow bal- 
sam, and forms a varnish quite equal to mastic, with, 
however, a slight tendency to bloom. They are all 
brittle when dry, but a very small admixture of oil 
gives the necessary toughness. 

I find that carmine, ground in Venice turpentine 
or in oleo, with a few drops of oil, preserves its fresh- 
ness wonderfully. On exposure to sunlight thepurple 
bloom quickly goes, but after that the colour remains 
strong and good, while becoming a dirty brown and 
fading in oil or an oil varnish. I find that if verdigris 
in oil be exposed to sulphuretted hydrogen gas, it 
turns black in a few minutes, while verdigris in 
balsam is only very slightly affected after some 

There is another important property revealed by 
these balsams which requires some explanation. I 
find that certain pigments dissolve more or less 
readily in linseed oil. For instance, emerald green 



dissolves slightly, and diffuses through the oil even 
after it is dry. If, for instance, emerald green is 
painted over dry cadmium yellow with a layer of 
dry oil between, it gradually passes through, and 
after a few months attacks the cadmium yellow and 
turns it black. 

Verdigris is still more soluble. If warmed with 
linseed oil it gives a green solution. If verdigris in 
oil andcadmium yellow are mixed together, the action 
of the verdigris is so rapid that in a few hours the 
whole thing has turned black. Now, if instead of oil 
these pigments are ground in a balsam, even though 
a few drops of oil are mixed with it, this does not 
happen. A light green can be made with them per- 
fectly well, which, as far as I have tested it, is 

I hold, then, that the experimental evidence is in 
favour of the view that these balsams were used 
with little admixture of oil, as mediums, in the time 
of Van Eyck and his immediate followers. The 
point to be noted is that the harder the resin, the 
more oil is required to dissolve it and make a fluid 
varnish. Consequently amber was unsuitable for 
the preservation of pigments such as verdigris. On 
the other hand, for other purposes amber may have 
been used. With amber, sandarac, and the balsams, 



a whole range of varnishes could be easily prepared, 
suitable for different purposes, the first of the series 
containing a great deal of oil, the last being nearly- 
pure resin. In fact, in some receipts I find the 
hot balsams recommended as a varnish by itself 
Further evidence that at any rate the greens used 
by Van Eyck must have been prepared according 
to De Mayerne's receipt, by dissolving the verdi- 
gris in Venice turpentine (though given by him for 
another purpose), will be considered in the final 
discussion of the Van Eyck medium. Probably the 
use of balsam was more excessive in the Flemish 
pictures than in the Italian pictures meant for a drier 

I have no wish unduly to press the above explana- 
tion of the durability of the earlier "oil" paintings ; 
but at any rate the experiments described both on the 
hardness and toughness of these varnishes and their 
protective power will prove for us a guide in con- 
sideringmoreof the old receipts which I willnowpro- 
ceed to quote. The earliest receipts of the kind are 
contained in the Lucca MS. The one described as 
de lucide ad lucidas consists of amber, mastic, three 
kinds of turpentine, resin, galbanum, myrrh, two 
gums, and a little linseed oil, and florae puppli. Such 
a varnish would be very stiff and would have to be 



rubbed on to the picture hot. I f the turpentine resins 
are first fused and then the amber added before the 
oil, the amber would dissolve; if not, and if amber is 
meant, it would remain undissolved. 

The next two receipts worthy of mention are those 
already quoted from the MS. of the monk Theo- 

The first receipt is for the solution of a resin, 
probably sandarac, in linseed oil. No proportions 
are given and no driers are added, so that the var- 
nish would dry very slowly. In the second re- 
ceipt the resin which is called glassa (probably 
amber) is to be fused, and then the oil added. This 
may well be, therefore, a receipt for an amber var- 
nish. The next receipt is taken from the transla- 
tion by Mrs Merrifield of the MS. of Petrus de S. 
Audemar in the collection of MSS. by Jehan le 
Begue. The MS. is probably late thirteenth or 
early fourteenth century. The varnishes given by 
Theophilus are intended to be used in gilding tin, 
and similarly the following receipts are for the same 
purpose : — 

" 207. Also as before. — Mix linseed oil and pine 
rosin {pinum), an equal weight of each, and add the 
same measure of vernix ; put these ingredients into 
a jar and boil them well. Then dip leaves of tin well 



varnished into it (the jar), and afterwards dry them 
in the sun. 

"208. Also as above. — Put linseed oil and the 
inner bark of the black plum into a new jar, and boil 
it well for a short time upon charcoal or upon a 
clear fire. Then clean your glassa by weight as 
much as you like, and put it into another jar, and 
take about half the quantity of alum and of dragon's- 
blood, and put it all into the jar, and lastly add a 
little rosin [pinum), and melt the whole well to- 
gether, and as soon as all the ingredients are melted 
add the above-mentioned oil, and, as if you were 
making a compound ointment, let them boil well 
together, and stir them frequently, and afterwards 
dip your nail into the composition and try whether 
it is good or not. 

" 209. Alsoasbefore. — Collecttwigsofblackplum, 
and put them in the sun for a week or a fortnight 
and then throw away the outer bark, and take the 
inner bark and put it into a rough jar, so as to fill 
it. Then take linseed or hempseed oil and pour 
into the jar as much of it as it will hold, and heat it 
slowly over the fire, until the bark is reduced to 
charcoal. Then throw away the bark, and strain the 
remainder of the oil through linen, and take resin 
and white frankincense and clean the jar well, and 



then put all the ingredients into it again and heat as 
long as you please." 

The first receipt given here would be almost solid 
when cold, but would do quite well to dip the tin 
leaves into while hot. In the second receipt the 
"glassa" is quite possibly amber, as it is to be fused 
first with the pine resin before the oil is added. This 
is,ashasbeen already explained.apracticablemethod 
of dissolving amber. The third receipt is for a thick- 
ened oil to which resin is then added. 

In the same collection of MSS. is included one by 
Johann Alcherius, written in 1 388. In this only one 
receipt for varnish is given, in which "glasse aro- 
matique " is to be fused, and then to one part two 
parts of linseed oil are to be added. This is to be 
spread with the fingers over dry painting. This re- 
ceipt would do for amber varnish. At the same time, 
judging by the name, probably some other resin is in- 
tended. The next receipts for varnishes are quoted 
from the MS. in the Public Library at Strassburg, 
and which is supposed to be early fourteenth century. 
The translations given are by Eastlake : — ^ 

" Here I will teach how to make a good varnish of 

' Pice Greca and gloriat mean the resin left after heating the 
balsam of the pine and driving off the oil of turpentine. This 
corresponds closely to what we now call rosin. 


three materials — a good superior varnish out of each 
of the materials separately. I n the first place, take 
I lb. of sandarac or of mastic, whichever you please, 
and pulverise it in a clean mortar. Then take 3 lb. 
of linseed oil, or hempseed oil, or old nut oil, and boil 
this in a clean vessel, skimming it and taking care, 
above all, that it does not run over. After it has been 
boiled andskimmed, (throw in and)stirthepowdered 
resinlittle by little in the boiling oil : thus the powder 
dissolves in the oil. When it is quite dissolved let 
the varnish seethe gently with a moderate heat, stir- 
ring it continually that it may not burn ; and when 
you find that the composition has become thick, like 
melted honey, take a drop of varnish on a knife, and, 
after suffering it to cool a little, touch it and draw 
your finger slowly off; if the varnish strings it is well 
boiled, but, if not, boil it better till it strings. Then 
take it from the fire and suffer it to cool ; strain it 
through a strong piece of linen, wringing it through 
the cloth into a clean glazed vessel, and keep it well 
covered for use. Thus you have an excellent and 
clear varnish of the best kind. 

"And if you wish to makeanother good varnish, as 
clear and lustrous as crystal, get i lb. of " gloriat " 
(rosin) from the apothecaries' shops, and (add) twice 
the quantity of oil. Let them boil together, and pre- 



pare this in all respects like the former varnish ; as 
soon as it strings it is sufficiently boiled, and is in the 
right state." 

Similar receipts to this could easily be added from 
other MSS. It will be noted that in these receipts 
there is no mention of the use of the pine balsams, 
but rather of the rosin left after heating the balsam 
and driving off the spirits of turpentine ; there are 
no instructions to add driers, and that in no case is 
the resin dissolved in, or the varnish diluted with, 
oil of spike, spirits of turpentine, petroleum, or 

Such varnishes would be too stiff, or very difficult 
to paint with, if used as mediums without a large 
addition of oil, and would dry very slowly, and could 
only probably be used by rubbing on hot on the 
finished picture. They would not serve, except in 
some of the very highly resinous ones, to protect a 
pigment from change. 

The absence of the mention of spirits of turpen- 
tine is very remarkable, as its preparation by dis- 
tillation is described by Marcus Graccus in the eighth 
century, and the use either of turpentine or petro- 
leum in varnish-making occurs in a receipt in the 
older part of the Hermeneia. The next MS. to be 
quoted, the MS. at Venice known as the Marciana 



MS., reveals a complete change in the nature of re- 
ceipts for varnishes. This MS. belongs to the six- 
teenth century, probably about the middle. We find 
here receipts for varnishes made with Gum Benzoin 
and alcohol. These are very weak varnishes, only 
suitable for paper. 

There is also a receipt for making what is pos- 
sibly an amber varnish ; but after completion, we 
are directed to dilute it with linseed oil, naphtha, or 
spirits of wine, thus corresponding more closely to 
the modern oil varnish, though the actual diluents 
proposed are of doubtful value. Receipts are also 
given corresponding to those with which we are al- 
ready familiar, in which sandarac, mastic, and pine 
resin are dissolved in linseed oil ; but among them 
occurs the following, which is more of the nature of 
a spirit than an oil varnish : — 

" Take one pound of mastic, half a pound of olio 
petronio (petroleum), and half an ounce of clear nut 
oil, and melt them together in a bottle or glass over 
a charcoal fire, and strain through an old linen 

It is to be noted, however, that mastic does not 
readily dissolve in petroleum, and that therefore the 
question arises whether the translation of this word 
is correct. It is much more likely that spirits of tur- 



pentine isintended, though why called ' 'olio petronio" 
is difficult to explain, unless it is due to a mistake on 
the part of the writer of the MS. 

Another receipt is for a varnish of 2 oz. clear nut 
oil, I oz. of pine resin, and ^ oz. of mastic, again cor- 
responding pretty closely to the receipts we have 
already studied. The following, however, is the first 
receipt in which olio di abezzo (the balsam of the 
silver pine) is mentioned : — 

" 403. Item. A varnish of ' olio di abezzo ' which 
dries both in the sun and in the shade. — Take ' olio 
di abezzo,' which must be genuine and not adulter- 
ated, and if you wish to know whether it is falsified, 
distemper it with nut or linseed oil, or naphtha, heat- 
ing both the oils, etc., and spread it on a work, when, 
if it is not genuine, it will not dry for a long time, 
and then badly, because it is adulterated with tur- 
pentine, but if it is genuine it will dry quickly and 

"If you desire to varnish delicate works which will 
not be exposed to water, but merely to bring out the 
colours and show their beauty, distemper the olio di 
abezzo as above. But if you wish to varnish more 
permanently on works which are intended to resist 
water, do notdistemper the olio di abezzo with other 
ingredients, but heat it in a vase, melt it, and varnish 



with it. When you distemper it with linseed or nut 
oil, let it be with oil which has been exposed to the 
sun to evaporate, and the varnish will be much 

The following receipts, taken from a MS. at 
Padua, probably written early in the seventeenth 
century, show clearly the introduction of oil of tur- 
pentine, spike oil, and naphtha. ^ 

"45. A clear and finevarnish. — Take of clear Ven- 
ice turpentine oz. iij., and of odoriferous oil of spike 
oz. j., melt them well together over a slow fire, and 
use the varnish hot, recollecting that if you are 
using it on wood, you must first give it a good coat of 
glue, or distemper the colour with gum water, in 
order that the varnish may not penetrate. 

"46. Avarnishwhichhasbeen tried. — Take equal 
parts of white mastic and linseed oil, put them into 
a new pipkin over a slow fire, and when the oil is hot, 
add toit a little ' olio d'abezzo,' and continue to mix. 

"47. Another good varnish. — Take equal quanti- 
ties of red mastic well powdered and linseed oil with 
a little resin ; put them over the fire in a new pipkin, 
stirring the ingredients continually for a quarter of 
an hour, when it will be finished. 

" 48. Another varnish. — Take of oglio d'abezzo, 
naphtha, and white mastic, all at discretion ; put the 



whole into a new pipkin over a slowfire, and boil un- 
til all the mastic is dissolved; if there is plenty of the 
olio di abezzo the varnish will be better. 

"49. Avarnish whichdries directly. — Takeequal 
parts of boiled linseed oil and white mastic ; place 
them over the fire in a new pipkin with a little oglio 
di abezzo; let them boil while you can say a credo; 
then add to them spirit of turpentine equal in quan- 
tity to half the linseed oil, mixing it well with the 
other ingredients. 

" 50. Another varnish which dries directly. — Put 
into a pipkin a proper quantity of mastic ; cover it 
with a somewhat greater quantity of naphtha, and 
leave the pipkin over the hot coals until the mastic 
is dissolved. 

"51. A varnish which does not dry immediately. — 
Take of white mastic oz. j., of nut or linseed oil oz, 
ij., and of oglio di abezzo oz. ss. ; put the whole into 
a pipkin, and boil over a slow fire until all the mastic 
is dissolved ; then add a little naphtha at discretion. 

"52. A varnish which has been proved to dry in- 
stantly. — Take of coarsely pounded white mastic, 
oz. j., of spirit of turpentine, oz. j., of naphtham, oz. 
j., and of oglio di abezzo, oz. ij. ; put all the ingredi- 
ents into a glass vessel closely covered with paper; 
then put a tin pot the handle of which 

321 21 


the glass must be suspended, being secured to it by 
a string ; and put into the tin pot sufficient water to 
coverthe glass. Boil the water for half an hour, and 
until the mastic is dissolved, taking care not to take 
out the glass while the water is boiling, as it would 

"53. Anothervarnish. — Let any quantity of oglio 
di abezzo, naphtha, and mastic be placed in a pipkin 
in the summer and exposed to the sun, and in this 
way excellent varnish will be made." 

If we now turn to the treatise by De Mayerne, we 
find very similar receipts, such as the following : — 

" Oil of turpentine, 2 oz. ; finest and clearest tur- 
pentine (the balsam of the larch), i oz. ; sandarac, 
very little." 

"Turpentine, i oz. ; petroleum, 2 oz." 

" The best varnish which resists water is made 
from siccative oil much thickened in the sun or with 

We have found before examples of the thickened 
oil varnishes. 

He also gives a receipt for an amber varnish which 
would, if capable of being made at all, be nearly 
black ; and then tells us that the following is "the 
true varnish for lutes and violins." The receipt is 
lengthy, but can be reduced to the following: — 



I St. The amber is fused and powdered. 

2nd. Boil and skim the linseed oil. 

3rd. Dissolve in i pint of the oil, 6oz. of the fused 

" This varnish is used cold, and dries only in the 

This is a perfectly practical receipt for amber var- 
nish, and corresponds closely to the modern method 
of making it in Germany. 

He then goes on to state that the oil " has its fat 
removed" by boiling it with a piece of lead or 
bread crust, and to each pound a " little nut of 
litharge." The oil is thus a drying oil. The varnish, 
he says, dries in one day. 

He also tells us that he found in the little 
Cheirurgie of Paracelsus a receipt for dissolving 
amber in "turpentine" (pine balsam). The fact 
that amber can be so dissolved has already been re- 
ferred to; but such a varnish, while no doubt harder 
than a varnish of the "turpentine" alone, is no 
longer to be described as an amber varnish. 

In his own receipt he adds to the amber, oil of 
turpentine first, then nut oil, then the Venice tur- 
pentine. Under these conditions the amber does 
not, to the best of my belief, dissolve at all. 

He also has receipts, with which we are already 



familiar, for dissolving the softer resins in linseed 
oil, and for sandarac dissolved in Venetian turpentine, 
and benzoin dissolved in spirits of wine. 

He also tells us that the common varnish used 
by carpenters consisted of three parts " Greek 
pitch " or resin to one part of linseed oil. His 
receipt for varnish for leather covered with tinfoil is 
also already familiar : 3 lb. linseed oil, i lb. Greek 
pitch, I lb. sandarac, i oz. saffron, i lb. aloe resin ; 
and he tells us that the delicate varnishes are made 
with petroleum, turpentine oil, and aspic oil (oil of 

Another interesting receipt for what he calls 
Chinese varnish consists of linseed oil made drying 
by boiling with litharge and umber, i pint ; asphalt, 
3 oz. ; gum lac, 3 oz. ; spiegelharz, 2 oz. ; mastic, 
3 oz. ; dragon's-blood, 3 oz. ; oil of turpentine, i pint. 

Another receipt for amber varnish requires some 
of the oil to be mixed with it before melting. This, 
as already explained, if practicable at all, would in- 
volve practically decomposing the oil. 

In another receipt by Jehan Haitier, the amber 
is fused and then mixed with gum lac — i lb. of 
amber to \ lb. of gum lac, — fused, poured out, and 
dissolved in a drying oil, and thinned with spirits of 



In addition to these receipts he has some inter- 
esting receipts for preparing transparent pigments 
by grinding lake in oil of turpentine and mixing in 
Venice turpentine and boiling, and for dissolving 
verdigris in Venice turpentine. These receipts are 
for colouring foil for artificial jewels (doublets) and 
for varnishing gold. 

He also describes a beautiful green varnish of 
verdigris, yellow lake, linseed oil, and turpentine 
varnish. This dissolving of verdigris in Venice tur- 
pentine has already been referred to. 

The conclusion, then, that we can come to from 
these receipts is that the older varnishesconsisted of 
sandarac and pine resin, and, later, mastic dissolved 
in linseed oil, the proportion of resin to oil being in 
many cases very high; that these thick varnishes 
were rubbed on hot with the hand ; that amber 
varnish was also known, but must have been very 
dark in colour, and also varnishes in which the amber 
was dissolved in pine resin ; that the use of oil of 
turpentine, spike oil, petroleum, and alcohol in pre- 
paring varnishes is not mentioned till the sixteenth 
century, and it is only then that the use of pine 
balsams is frequently mentioned ; and it is only at 
the beginning of the seventeenth century that re- 
ceipts for preparing lake with, and dissolving verdi- 



gris in, pine balsam are given. When wecome tocon- 
sider the evidence as to the methods of oil-painting 
in the next chapter, we shall find that either grind- 
ing in pure oil or, after grinding in oil, the addition 
of a little varnish is all that is ever mentioned. It 
must, therefore, be plainly stated that no definite 
documentary evidence exists for the method of 
painting the Van Eyck pictures which I have sug- 
gested and will again discuss later on. On the other 
hand, certain curious receipts are to be found in 
early seventeenth-century MSS., which may be the 
remnants of an older tradition. 



Having dealt fully with varnishes, we can return to 
the history of oil-painting. As I have already stated 
in the chapters dealing with painting in classical 
times, the first mention of drying oils is made by 
Pliny and Dioscorides, Pliny describing the prepa- 
ration of nut oil and Dioscorides adding to this the 
preparation of poppy oil ; but there is no indication 
here that the use of such oils as mediums was under- 
stood. In the sixth century Aetius, as already stated, 
describes the preparation of linseed oil, and tells us 
that such oils can be used for varnishes, while in the 
Lucca Manuscript of the eighth century the first re- 
ceipts for varnishes made by dissolving resins in oil 
appear. These receipts for varnishes have already 
been considered. Up to this age there is no sugges- 
tion that oil could be used as a medium for painting, 
and it is not until we come to the manuscript of 



Theophilus — which is supposed to be of about the 
eleventh century, the actual copy in the British Mu- 
seumhavingbeenwrittenin the thirteenth century — 
that the use of oil as a painting medium is first men- 
tioned. I n chap. XX. , which has already been quoted 
(Hendrie's translation), Theophilus says : " If you 
wish to redden panels, take linseed oil, which you 
make in this manner : — Take linseed and dry it in a 
pan over the fire without water, then put it in a mor- 
tar and press it with a pestle until it becomes a very 
fine powder ; place it again in the pan and pour a 
little water upon it, then make this very hot. After- 
wards fold it in a new cloth, and press it in a press 
in which olive and poppy and walnut oil are accus- 
tomed to be pressed, and this is done in the same 
manner. After this lightly grind minium or cinnabar 
upon the stone without water, and paint over the 
doors or tables which you wish to redden with a 
pencil, and you will dry them in the sun. Then paint 
them again, and again dry them. At last cover them 
over with that gluten which is called varnish, and 
which is made in this manner." Then follow two 
receipts for making varnishes. In chap, xxvii., again, 
Theophilus tells us all sorts of colours can be ground 
and laid upon woodwork with the same kind of oil, 
but only things which can be dried in the sun, "be- 



cause each time that you have laid on one colour 
you cannot place another upon it until it first has 
dried, which for figures is excessively long and tedi- 
ous." It is evident from this account that the pre- 
paration and use of linseed oil were understood at 
the time of Theophilus ; but there is no suggestion 
here for either purifying and bleaching the oil or 
preparing a boiled or drying oil from it, and it is 
evident that he found the oil slow-drying. Such a 
raw linseed oil which had not been purified would 
dry slowly, and to anyone who was accustomed to 
painting with such mediums as gum, egg, or glue, 
this process of drying would seem insufferably te- 
dious. At the same time, it is not generally known 
that the oil in which the artists' colours of to-day 
are ground is a purified but raw oil, and no driers 
are added, so that the rate of drying which is con- 
sidered necessary by the modern artist would have 
been regarded as tedious in the times of Theophilus, 
the artist now wishing, of course, to paint into the 
wet surface from day to day. 

The next manuscript which has a receipt for the 
use of oil is by Eraclius. This receipt is for the pre- 
paration of a drying oil, and is taken from Mrs 
Merrifield's translation, vol. i. p. 232, receipt 29, 
"How oil is prepared for tempering colours" : " Put 



a little quantity of lime into oil, and heat it, con- 
tinually skimming it ; add ceruse to it, according to 
the quantity of oil, and put it in the sun for a month 
or more, stirring frequently ; and know that the 
longer it remains in the sun, the better it will be. 
Then strain and keep it and temper the colours with 
it." This receipt would produce a very satisfactory 
drying oil. In the first place, the treatment with lime 
would remove moisture and acidity ; in the second 
place, the long exposure to the sun would remove 
impurities and bleach the oil, and at the same 
time thicken it to a certain extent and increase its 
rate of drying, while the presence of the white lead 
would make it into a rapidly drying oil. Thisoil, then, 
would be pale, somewhat thick, and quickly drying. 
It would have, however, one objectionable feature, 
and that would be the presence of a considerable 
amount of dissolved lead. 

In the manuscript of Petrus de S. Audemar (Mrs 
Merrifield) there are several references to the use of 
oil as a medium for painting, the references being 
introduced as if oil was recognised as an alternative 
medium. This manuscript, supposed to be of about 
the thirteenth century, is included in a whole set of 
manuscriptsin the Paris. Library by Jehan LeBegue, 
which were written out by him in 1431. 



In addition to these and other references in MSS. 
of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries to oil-paint- 
ing, there is a remarkable series of accounts existing 
in England in connection with the painting both at 
Westminster and at Ely Cathedral, of the thirteenth 
and fourteenth centuries, which show clearly that 
some kind of painting in oil was commonly prac- 
tised in England at that time. 

These accounts referred in many cases to the 
Painted Chamber at Westminster, and show that 
it was customary to buy oil and also to buy var- 
nish, both red and white varnish being referred 
to. Similar records are found at Ely Cathedral, 
showing that in England, at any rate, the use of 
linseed oil for painting on a large scale was quite 
common in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. 
To take one account dealing with the Painted Cham- 
ber, we find the following items: " To Reymund for 
17 pounds of white lead, ii. s.x.d. ; to the same for 
16 gallons of oil, xvi. s. ; to the same for 24 pounds of 
varnish, xii. s. ; to Hugo le Vespunt for 1 8 gallons 
of oil, xxi. s. ; to Reymund for 1 00 leaves of gold, 
iii. s." There are also in these accounts the mention 
of large quantities of eggs, which certainly suggests 
that the method of painting must have been in some 
way partly tempera and partly with linseed oil. 



To come now to the fifteenth century, Cennino 
Cennini, from whom we have already quoted, refers, 
as we have seen, to the use of linseed oil. In chap. 
Ixxxix., " How to paint in oil on walls, panel, iron, 
or whatever you please," p. 78 of Mrs Herring- 
ham's translation, Cennino Cennini says : " Before 
we proceed further, I will teach you to paint in oil 
on walls or on panels, which is much practised by 
the Germans, or in the same way on iron or stone ; 
but we will speak first of walls." In chapter xc, 
" How to begin painting on walls," he tells us to 
prepare the surface with a medium consisting of 
glue, egg, and the juice of the fig-tree. This is 
before beginning to paint with the oil. Then for 
painting he tells us to take 3 or 4 lb. of linseed 
oil, and boil the oil until it is reduced to half the 
quantity ; and when the oil is required as a mor- 
dant for attaching gold leaf, to each pint of such 
thickened oil i oz. of vernice liquida is added. 
This oil of Cennino Cennini's resembles very close- 
ly the oil which is prepared to-day for lithographic 
inks, and would be somewhat deep yellow in colour, 
and thick like a varnish, but would not necessarily 
dry very quickly, as no driers had been introduced. 

Eastlake dwells upon the use of sulphate of zinc 
or white vitriol as a drier. The first receipt appar- 



ently in which this is mentioned is in the manuscript 
known as the Strassburg Manuscript, and which 
is supposed to be of the fifteenth century. This 
writer advises that oil should be boiled with cal- 
cined bones and white vitriol. It is important to note 
that the white copperas or sulphate of zinc of this 
time was impure and contained a certain amount 
of manganese. Pure dried sulphate of zinc has 
very little effect on the drying qualities of linseed 
oil, although, as it is hygroscopic, it may tend to re- 
move moisture ; but the impure white copperas of 
early times, containing manganese, would prove a 
very useful and valuable drier — in fact, the oil so 
prepared would correspond in properties to the 
manganese drying oils of the present day, and would 
have the advantage of not being acted upon by im- 
pure air owing to the absence from it of lead com- 
pounds in solution. 

In this MS. directions are given for grinding 
colours in oil. It is advised that the colours should 
be ground stiffly, and that a little varnish should be 
added to each colour after the grinding is finished. 
It is evident from these quotations that, though in 
the case of the last one (the Strassburg Manuscript), 
it is possible that the information may be contem- 
poraneous with or subsequent to the methods of the 



Van Eycks, the older descriptions prove that paint- 
ing with oil was understood long before the brothers 
Van Eyck began to paint pictures. The reference in 
Cennino Cennini to this being the German practice 
in painting is of great interest, and shows that there 
must have been a northern tradition, German, and 
also evidently English, and probably therefore Flem- 
ish, for painting with oil medium, quite distinct from 
the tempera tradition which we find in Italy. It is 
therefore rather difficult to understand the import- 
ance given to the brothers Van Eyck in the history 
of oil-painting, an importance which it may be re- 
marked is very largely due to Vasari's statement in his 
Lives of the Artists, and it is remarkable that on 
the tombs of the Van Eycks there was no mention 
made of their having been the first to discover or 
make use of oil as a medium in painting. 

We shall, however, next consider Vasari's ac- 
count in Lives of the Artists of the discovery of this 
process. Of the two brothers Van Eyck, Hubert 
Van Eyck was the younger and Jan Van Eyck the 
elder brother, and of the two painters Jan Van 
Eyck is the more famous ; but if any invention 
was made at all, it must have been by the younger 
brother, Hubert, and not by Jan. Vasari, in the first 
edition of his work, does not even mention Hubert, 



whose name appears for the first time in the second 
edition. The passage taken literally ascribes the 
honour to Hubert, but the words are brief, and the 
older, more important sentence remains unaltered. 

The statement made by Vasari is taken from 
Vasari's life of Antonello da Messina. He states : 
" The mode of painting in tempera which had been 
adopted by Cimabue about the year 1250 was fol- 
lowed by Giotto and those succeeding masters who 
had hitherto occupied our attention, and it still con- 
tinued to be the only method for painting on wood 
and cloth." He then goes on to state that artists 
were aware that this medium had many disadvan- 
tages, and that the experiments to invent a better 
process had not been a success, neither by using 
liquid varnish nor other kinds of oils mixed with 
the tempera vehicles. 

This sentence shows that emulsions of oil or var- 
nish with the tempera had been tried. He mentions 
that among those who tried this experiment were 
Alesso Baldovinetti, Pesello, and others. Herr 
Berger has recently brought many arguments to- 
gether with a view of trying to demonstrate that the 
medium used by Van Eyck was probably an emul- 
sion of tempera with oil, and, as I shall show ulti- 
mately, I have come to the conclusion for quite other 



reasons that the use of such an emulsion is not im- 
possible as an explanation of certain of his effects, 
so that this reference by Vasari to attempts to use 
an emulsion before Van Eyck are not without in- 

He then goes on to state that while things were 
in this state, it happened that Giovanni of Bruges, 
a painter of Flanders, began to try experiments with 
different kinds of colour, and, being fond of alchemy, 
tried different oils for the composition of varnishes 
and other things. H e then states that on a particular 
occasion, having finished a picture and finally var- 
nished it, and placed it in the sun to dry, it split, and 
this finally decided him to try and invent a new 
medium. " And being not less dissatisfied with the 
varnish than with the process of tempera-painting, 
he began to devise methods for preparing a kind of 
varnish which should dry in the shade, so as to avoid 
placing his pictures in the sun. Having made ex- 
periments with many things, both pure and mixed 
together, at last he found that linseed and nut oil 
were more drying than all the rest. These, there- 
fore, boiled with other mixtures of his, made him the 
varnish which he, nay, which all the painters of the 
worldhad longdesired. Continuinghis experiments 
with many other things, he saw that the immixture 



of the colours with these kinds of oil gave them a 
firm consistence, which, when dry, was proof against 
wet, and moreover that the vehicle lit up the colours 
so beautifully, that it gave a gloss of itself without 
varnish. ..." This account by Vasari has, as might 
be supposed, been discussed and rediscussed over 
and over again. At the same time, I think that pos- 
sibly too much attention has been paid to it. It was 
written about one hundred years afterVanEyck,and 
it is quite obvious on the face of it, from the infor- 
mation we have already collected, that this romantic 
account of the invention of oil-painting is not based 
upon fact. Not only wasthe use of linseed oil known 
before Van Eyck, but, as we have shown, the puri- 
fication of the oil and bleaching it in the sun, and 
the preparation from it of a drying oil and of a thick- 
ened oil of the nature of that used for lithographic 
work, was well understood. The only possible new 
invention in the preparation of the oil that can have 
been made in the fifteenth century is the use of im- 
pure sulphate of zinc, as stated in the Strassburg 
Manuscript. Thepreparationofmanydifferent kinds 
of varnishes from these oils was also understood. It 
will also be noted that the account given by Vasari 
is distinctly vague. He states that these oils, boiled 
with other mixtures of his, made him the varnish 

337 22 


which painters had long desired. Now, if weturn to 
Vasari's account of technical processes, we find that, 
when dealing with the subject of oil-painting, he first 
of all repeats briefly his statement that Giovanni of 
Bruges was the inventor of oil-painting, and then 
proceeds to tell us howoil-paintingshould be carried 
out : 

" I must now explain how to set about the work. 
When the artist wishes to begin, that is, after he 
has laid the gesso on the panels or framed canvas 
and smoothed it, he spreads over this, with a 
sponge, four or five coats of the smoothest size, 
and proceeds to grind the colours with the walnut 
or linseed oil, though walnut oil is better, because 
it yellows less in time. When they are ground with 
these oils, which is their tempera, nothing else is 
needed, so far as the colours are concerned, but to 
lay them on with a brush." . . . " Vanno poi maci- 
ando i colori con olio di noci o di seme di lino (benche 
il noce 6 meglio perche ingialla meno) et cosi 
macinati con questi olii che e la tempera loro, non 
bisogno altro quanto a essi che distengergli col' 

I quote the Italian text here, because Herr 
Berger, in his Beitrage, vol. iii., interprets this as 
meaning that the oil was emulsified with a tempera 



medium. It is evident, therefore, that whatever the 
Van Eyck medium may have been, Vasari in his 
day understood that the process of oil-painting con- 
sisted simply in the grinding of the colours in oil 
and the using of them without any other addition. 
At the same time, there is a suggestion in his account 
of the invention of his having had an impression 
that Van Eyck's method was somewhat different 
from this, since he talksabout his boiling theoilste;?^ 
other mixtures, and that he wishes to suggest this, 
without being able himself to tell us what this other 
mixture was. It is, of course, possible that he wishes 
to conceal his knowledge ; but it is, I think, more 
probablethat hewashimself uncertain on the matter, 
and that therefore time and attention spent in care- 
fully weighing the words of this account are time 
andattention thrown away. I do not, therefore, pro- 
pose to discuss the little differences between the ac- 
count in the first and second editions, as they do not 
throw any further light on the matter. 

Vasari tells us that the fame of this invention hav- 
ing spread throughout Italy, and a picture having 
been sent to Alphonso I. at Naples, it attracted 
great attention. " At this time one, Antonello da 
Messina, a person of intelligent, active spirit, and 
very sagacious, moreover, in his profession, having 



studied drawing for many years in Rome, and hav- 
ing happened to go to Naples and heard of the 
above-mentioned picture, he went to Flanders and 
learned the secret from Giovanni ; that he took this 
secret to Venice and taught it there to a certain 
Maestro Domenico.and from thence the knowledge 
spread to other painters in Italy." This account has 
been discussed and rediscussed, but it is unneces- 
sary for us to dwell upon it here, as there can be no 
doubt that the introduction of oil-painting in Italy 
came through many roads, many of the leading 
artists who followed Van Eyck themselves going 
to Italy and painting pictures there. 

Probably the most we can say is this, that while 
the use of oil for painting had been understood in 
Germany, in Flanders, and in England, it had not, 
in spite of Cennino Cennini's description of it, been 
seriously adopted in Italy, and that such experi- 
ments as had been made in this direction had not 
proved successful, and that it was not until the 
magnificent pictures of Jan Van Eyck were actu- 
ally seen by Italian artists that the revelation of 
the possibilities of this medium came home to them, 
and that it rapidly replaced tempera as a means of 

It must be remembered that it is not enough 


for a medium to have been proved to work. A 
chemist might to-morrow bring out some new 
painting medium which involved a somewhat differ- 
ent technique from that required in oil-painting, and 
it might possibly be superior to oil in many ways, 
yet he would find it difficult to persuade artists to 
use it, because, having already become familiar with 
the possibilities of oil, and having learned by long 
use and practice how to obtain from it certain re- 
sults, they would be almost certain to reject the new 
medium, not because of faults in it, but because 
they themselves were incapable of using it effici- 
ently. It would require a striking object-lesson to 
bring home to them the fact that the medium itself 
was an improvement on the mediums they already 
knew, and the defect lay in their own clumsiness in 
using it. After the Italian artists had once seen a 
picture by Giovanni, they would at once realise 
that oil had possibilities which were not to be found 
in the tempera medium, and they would be pre- 
pared to make the necessary effort to learn its use; 
and having once seen its possibilities as shown by 
Giovanni, being themselves artists, and of great 
technical skill, they would soon learn to imitate his 
effects. It is, therefore, probably safe to say that 
while the invention of oil-painting cannot for a mo- 



ment be ascribed either to Hubert or Jan Van Eyck, 
to them we may give the credit of having first pro- 
duced great pictures in the new medium, and of 
having, through their pictures, converted the Italian 
artists to its use. 

In this discussion I have assumed the Van Eycks' 
method of painting to be essentially painting in oil, 
and not something else. This may be taken as a 
rough-and-ready working assumption, but, at the 
same time, it may require to be seriously modified 
before we finally accept it as proved. 

An interesting description of the methods of 
painting adopted by Van Eyck is to be found given 
in verse by a Flemish painter. Van Mander, who 
treats the whole subject poetically in his work, Den 
Grondt der Edel vry Schilder- Const. Van Mander 
himself was a painter, and his son and grandson after 
him, though, judging by a picture by his grandson, 
which I have seen, the methods of Van Eyck had 
not been successfully handed down through the 
family, as it is in far from good condition. 

" Our predecessors," he says, among whom he 
includes Van Eyck, "were in the habit of spreading 
a white ground over panels, more thickly than we 
do ; they then scraped the surface as smooth as pos- 
sible; they also used cartoons, which they laid on the 




Ihaz.'ini^ ,in JoUit:: •■t^'-V,' panel, z^'itJl blut: OJ ^ky painted ill 


smooth white ground and sat down and traced them, 
first rubbing in directly over the picture or drawing. 
They then drew in the design beautifully with black 
chalk or pencil. But an excellent method which some 
adopted was to grind coal black finely with water, 
after which they drew in and shaded their designs 
with all possible care ; they then delicately spread 
over the outline a fine priming." This description 
of the way in which the earlier oil-painters set about 
making a picture is of great interest, and on the 
unfinished Van Eyck in the gallery at Antwerp, of 
which an illustration is given on p. 342, we see 
upon a white panel a most elaborate, complete, and 
detailed drawing, so that every detail of the picture 
has been settled before the laying on of colour takes 
place at all. There is no suggestion to be found in 
Van Mander that any particular medium other than 
oil was used by Van Eyck and his followers, and this 
work of Van Mander is the nearest that we have 
to the time of Van Eyck, and consequently the most 
likely to describe accurately the methods used by 
him, although, as the date is 1604, it is possible that 
some of his processes had been already forgotten. 
Before considering in detail what the method 
used by Van Eyck probably consisted of, it is neces- 
sary to go a little further forward. I have already 



quoted from Vasari his account of the preparation 
of colours in oil. I n a later document which has been 
translated by Mrs M errifield, and of which the author, 
Giovanni Batista Volpato, was born in 1633, and 
which consists of an imaginary dialogue between 
two artist's apprentices, directions are given first of 
all for preparing and priming of the canvas (which 
will be dealt with separately), and then for grind- 
ing of the colours in oil (vol. ii. p. 738). The two 
apprentices are supposed to be engaged in drink- 
ing wine together, and the one asks how colours are 
ground ; the other replies that white lead, verdi 
eterno, indigo and all other blues, are mixed with nut 
oil, and other colours with linseed oil. There is here 
no suggestion that it is necessary to mix any other 
medium with the colours than linseed oil. 

The directions are based on the teaching of Ar- 
menini da Faenza and Raffaello Borghini, both of 
the sixteenth century. It is true that Armenini, in 
his directions, suggests the addition of varnish to the 
lakes, but merely in order to hasten their drying, 
and not for any other object ; and that Borghini, in 
h.\s II Riposo (1584), advises the addition of varnish 
to the ground colours in the following sentence : 
"Sopra cui calcando il cartone, odisagnando,e dan- 
do i colore, temperati con olio di noce o di linseme 



(ma meglio fia di noce, perche e piu sottile, e non 
ingialla i colori, ne' quali fia bene mescolare cui poco 
di vernice) conducerete con diligenza a fine I'opera 
vostra, la quale non accadera verniciarla," and also 
in one receipt, to the priming ; but all the evidence 
tends to show that, in the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries,oil-painting was understood to mean paint- 
ing with pigments ground in linseed oil or nut or 
poppy oil, and that, while the addition of varnish is 
suggested from time to time for various reasons, 
there is no evidence that the addition of varnish 
was considered as a necessary part of the painting 

These remarks are necessary because the views 
that have been taken on this subject are influenced 
by Eastlake's History of Oil-Painting. Every pos- 
sible quotation that can be brought together is 
brought together by him in the brilliant special 
pleading in which he tries to prove that the addi- 
tion of varnish was regarded as an essential part of 
the painting process by Van Eyck and those that fol- 
lowed after him. One of these quotations has been al- 
ready given — the Strassburg Manuscript — in which 
the addition of a few drops of varnish is advised; but 
if Eastlake's account of this matter is read critically, 
it will be obvious that there is really no evidence 



that the addition of varnish was regarded as an essen- 
tial part of the painting process — in fact, in order to 
try and prove that Van Dyck used such a medium, he 
quotes from a manuscript of unknown origin which 
is really of no authority at all, and which describes 
the preparation of megilp, and states that Van Dyck 
mixed his dry pigments with this, in direct contra- 
diction to De Mayerne's statements.^ 

To continue the consideration of late sixteenth 
and early seventeenth century painters. We have a 
good deal of information about the methods adopted 
by Rubens, owing to The Maxims of Rubens, by 
Descamps, his own letters, and the notes by De 

Rubens seems to have painted on white grounds, 
and on these, according to Descamps, painted with 
transparent shadows and solid lights. He preferred 

1 There is one interesting reference to the use of amber varnish 
as a painting medium by De Mayerne, where he tells us that amber 
varnish (the preparation is described), one part to nut oil two parts, 
is rubbed over the dead colouring with a sponge, and then painted 
into, by Italian artists. This receipt comes through several hands, 
and though possibly used by some, does not shake the accumulated 
general evidence as to the use of oil in the usual way. It is, how- 
ever, of further interest as agreeing with the practice of the P.R.B. 
to be described later. The amber varnish already containing oil, 
and then further diluted with oil and rubbed on thin, would not much 
darken the picture or have much protective value. 



to have his pigments first ground in oil of turpentine, 
and must probably have mixed them with his me- 
dium as he went along. The powder colours sold 
by artists' colourmen to-day have usually been so 
ground. In painting, he dipped his brush in oil of 

" M. Rubens, N. B. — To make your colours spread 
easily and consequently unite well, and ever retain 
their freshness — as in the case of blues and indeed 
all colours — dip your brush lightly from time to time, 
while you paint, in clear essential oil of Venice tur- 
pentine, distilled in a water bath ; then with the same 
brush mix your colours on the palette " {vide De 

Apparently also quoting from Rubens, De May- 
erne advises mixing smalt with varnish and laying 
it on quickly. The difficulty of using these blues in 
oil has already been discussed. Again he says : — 

" Rubens, N.B. — Turpentine intime becomes arid 
(as the essential oil of turpentine or the petroleum 
evaporates) and is not proof against water. The 
best water-resisting varnish is made with drying oil 
much thickened in the sun without boiling at all." 

Thisis apeculiarly bad receiptof Rubens, as the oil 
would darken and fail to protect the pigments under- 
neath. There is no evidence, in spite of Eastlake, 



that this thickened oil was Rubens' medium. His 
pictures are, therefore, straightforward oil pictures, 
as even if he used this thickened oil it would not have 
the mechanical or chemical effect of a dissolved resin. 

The practice of Van Dyck, from the conversa- 
tion recorded with De Mayerne, whom he refers to 
as " Sir Anthony Vandyck, Knight, a very excellent 
painter," was to paint in oil, but sometimes to lay on 
blue and green with gum water, first rubbing on 
garlic and thin varnish on the top. It is also evident 
from the letters of Rubens to Sir Dudley Carleton 
and to Peiresc, that he was accustomed to put his 
finished pictures out in the sun, and, when they had 
yellowed, to bleach them in this manner. 

On the whole, therefore, the evidence from the 
records of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries 
is in favour of the view that by painting in oil was 
understood exactly the same process as is used to- 
day, and that the introduction of varnish into the 
medium was possibly always done by certain artists, 
or occasionally done in the case of certain pigments, 
but there was no generally accepted understanding 
that the introduction of the varnish was of essential 
importance in producing permanent works in oil. 
It is inconceivable, for instance, that Vasari, with 
his enormous experience both as a painter and his 



knowledge of the history of art, would tell us so 
clearly that when the pigments are once ground in 
oil nothing else is needed, if it had been considered 
essential to add to the oil medium anything further. 
The Strassburg Manuscript, which has already been 
quoted, certainly advises the addition of a little 
varnish to each colour, but gives no reason for 
these additions, and is not necessarily of first-class 
authority in studying the methods of the Flemish 
school. Many receipts are given for the preparation 
of varnishes, but there is no proof that these were 
necessarily to be mixed with the colours, while Van 
Mander is silent on the subject. The reference to 
using varnish with greens, and also lakes, by Ar- 
menini, cannot be taken as conclusive evidence, 
especially as his reason for introducing it into the 
lakes is merely to make them dry quicker, so that the 
Strassburg Manuscript and Borghini stand alone. 
We must therefore come to the conclusion that the 
addition of varnish was not considered essential. 

The attempt by Herr Berger in his recent book to 
prove that Van Eyck used some special emulsion 
of a tempera medium with oil, also breaks down as 
far as the evidence from books and manuscripts is 
concerned. The one or two references to such mix- 
tures in the older manuscripts, and the statement 



by Vasari that the attempt to use such a mixture 
by an Italian artist had failed, cannot be set against 
the negative evidence in the other direction. 

It may be objected, on the other side, that, with 
the exception of the Strassburg Manuscript, all the 
other evidence quoted belongs to the sixteenth and 
seventeenth centuries, and that it is quite possible 
that by that time the special methods used by Van 
Eyck had been forgotten. This view is very much 
strengthened by an examination of the pictures 
painted in the Flemish school from Van Eyck on- 

Towards the close of the sixteenth century and the 
beginning of the seventeenth, it is quite obvious that 
some technical method has been lost, the pictures 
being in a very bad state of preservation when com- 
pared with the Van Eyck standard ; and while it 
may be claimed that, on the whole, the pictures of 
Rubens are in good condition, there can be no doubt 
that those by Van Dyck are very far from being in a 
satisfactory state. It is also of special significance 
to note that one of the marked features of the early 
oil-paintings is the magnificent greens to be seen 
in the drapery, and these greens, in Van Eyck's 
pictures, are as bright as possible. It is a marked 
characteristic of the Dutch painters of the close of 



the sixteenth and of the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries that their greens are fugitive, and have 
faded to dull browns and dingy greys in a very 
large number of cases. This distinctly suggests 
either a change in the pigments or a change in the 
method of using them. Those who hold, therefore, 
that Van Eyck and his immediate followers had 
certain methods which resulted in their pictures 
having a higher standard of durability than those 
that followed after them have certainly a great deal 
in their favour. We may take it, however, as suffi- 
ciently proved by the quotations from Vasari and 
others, that in the sixteenth and seventeenth cen- 
turies there was no special medium used beyond 
ordinary oil, and that where varnish happened to be 
introduced it was due more to accident than to a 
definite plan, while, on the other hand, the finished 
pictures were probably, in most cases, varnished. 

Pigments of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth 

During the period we are now considering, from 
the time of the MS. by Cennino Cennini to that of 
De Mayerne, a few changes had taken place in the 
pigments used by artists, though on the whole the 
pigments in use remained very much the same. 



Cennino Cennini only mentions two blues, real 
ultramarine and the copper carbonate or azurite, 
the blue copper ore, which was also used in the time 
of Pliny. He makes no mention of a copper frit 
like the old Egyptian blue, and, judging- by the 
absence of its mention here and in earlier MSS., its 
manufacture seems to have died out. On the other 
hand. Professor Middleton tells us in his work on 
illuminated manuscripts that he has often recog- 
nised it in initial letters, so that it is possible it was 
still known, though not mentioned by Cennino 

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, how- 
ever, there are frequent references to " smalt." 

Borghini, for instance, in his II Riposo, published 
in 1584, speaks of an azzurro di smalto, which he 
tells us is a glass. 

It is also mentioned by Lomazzo, whose treatise 
was translated into English by the physician 
Haydock, under the title, "A Tracte containing the 
Arts of Curious Painting, Carving, and Building, 
written first in Italian by Paul Lomaticus, painter 
of Milan, and Englished by R. H., student of 
Physicke, 1 598." It is also mentioned by Leonardo 
da Vinci and by De Mayerne and others. 

This pigment seems to have come from Germany. 



The modern smalt was a glass prepared in 
Germany, which owed its colouring matter to cobalt. 
We have already seen that while cobalt was used 
from the earliest times to make a blue glaze, copper 
was also used, and the copper frit was prepared for 
a pigment. As I have shown, there is apparently 
a gap when such frits were unknown, and then in 
the sixteenth century smalt appears as a well- 
known pigment, but whether prepared with cobalt 
from the beginning instead of copper seems to be 
unknown, though ultimately becoming certainly a 
cobalt blue. It was difficult to use in oil-painting 
from its coarseness and glassy, gritty nature, and 
consequently was sometimes put on with size, or 
dusted on dry. If size was used, it was the uni- 
versal custom to rub over the surface of the oil with 
garlic. This, to judge by long tradition, ensures a 
successful binding of the two media together. 

Besides these blues, there can be little doubt that 
other artificial copper blues began to appear in the 

Many receipts are given in the MSS. already 
repeatedly referred to for "artificial azures." To 
discuss these receipts in detail would be unprofit- 
able, but they can be classified into receipts for the 
preparation of blue by the action of a chloride on 

353 23 


verdigris under a gentle heat ; by the action of 
vinegar, and sometimes other ingredients, on plates 
of silver, dissolving out no doubt the alloyed copper; 
and by the action of lime and salammoniac on copper 
salts, and into receipts that would by no possibility 
give a blue at all. 

This lime receipt was the basis of a very consider- 
able manufacture of a blue made in England known 
as blue ashes, lime blue, copper blue, and mountain 
blue. This English process consisted of precipi- 
tating copper sulphate with potassium carbonate and 
grinding it with lime and salammoniac, thus copy- 
ing closely the medieval receipts. 

In De Mayerne's MS. there are frequent refer- 
ences to cendre d'azur or beis. How far this blue 
was still the native carbonate of copper or the 
artificial variety it is of course difficult to say, though 
doubtless a microscopic examination of the surface 
of a picture would make it possible to identify the 
ground mineral. Whether this manufacture is still 
carried on in England I am unable to say. The 
blues with which modern artists are familiar are all 
of much later invention. 

Prussian blue and its variations, such as Antwerp 
blue, was invented in 1720. Cobalt and cerulean 
blue and artificial ultramarine are all comparatively 



recent inventions of modern chemistry. The oil- 
painters of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries 
were much hampered by the difficulties in handling 
the blues which were then available. 

In greens nothing new was discovered, but it is 
evident from De Mayerne that the Flemish painters 
of his time made their greens usually by mixing blue 
with yellow lake. They seem to have had the ut- 
most confidence in the yellow lakes, which could 
never have been used except for illuminating in the 
time of Van Eyck, with the disastrous result in the 
fading of their greens, which is so marked a feature 
of Flemish and Dutch pictures of the late sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries. 

Verdigris, De Mayerne says, must be glazed on 
by itself and protected with varnish. The receipts 
for verdigris dissolved in balsam which he gives are 
not intended for use by painters, though possibly the 
last ofan old tradition. The protection by varnish 
on top would be of little or no value. 

The only other pigment of importance which be- 
gins to appear above the horizon is asphaltum. De 
Mayerne does not give it in his list of pigments for 
painting in oil, which I shall shortly quote in full, 
but mentions it elsewhere in his MS., and describes 
how to dissolve it in oil. 



Lomazzo states (1584) that it was used to give 
brightness to light and chestnut hair ; and in the 
MS. at the library in Padua, from which some re- 
ceipts for varnish have already been quoted, and 
which is either late sixteenth or early seventeenth 
century, it is stated that it is to be used for shadows 
in flesh, mixed with umber and burnt terre verte ; 
while it is frequently referred to by later writers. 

Eastlake is of the opinion that it was freely used 
by Flemish painters, and according to Mrs Merri- 
field the picture restorers hold that it was freely used 
in Italy for glazing. It must be remembered, how- 
ever, that Eastlake wrote when the asphaltum craze, 
which has ruined so many of the pictures painted in 
his time, was in full swing, and that the opinion of 
picture restorers is not of great value. There is no 
evidence of any special precaution being taken in 
its preparation, and it is probable, therefore, that if 
freely used the same results would have followed as 
followed later. If strongly baked it becomes harm- 
less, but at the same time loses all its finest character- 

Marcucci, however, gives a receipt which is very 
similar to one given in Riffault's Colours for Paint- 
ing, in which the bitumen is dissolved in Venice tur- 
pentine. This, it will be remembered, was suggested 



by me as possibly the varnish used by Apelles. 
Whether bitumen so treated loses its property of 
flowing is worth trying. 

The palette given by De Mayerne is as follows : — 
White lead, black chalk (lampblack, coal-black, 
black of vine charcoal on the margin), lac, vermilion, 
English brown, yellow ochre (Prussian ochre, very 
beautiful), yellow lake, massicot, smalt, cendred'azur, 
ultramarine, umber, green earth {^probably terre 
verte, possibly a copper green ore), verdigris (for 
glazing only), minium (red lead, condemned as fugi- 
tive), indigo (no use in oil). The other lists of pig- 
ments quoted by him are very similar, and if the 
"lac" is a madder lake, and the verdigris dissolved 
in varnish, are very good except for the fatal intro- 
duction of the yellow lake. 

The Preparation of Grounds 

The early oil pictures, like the tempera pictures, 
were painted on panels carefully coated with pure 
white gesso. This gesso was evidently prepared so 
as to be either non-absorbent or very slightly absor- 
bent, and on this the drawing of the picture was 
made. This is clearly shown in the unfinished Van 
Eyck in the Antwerp Gallery, of which a reproduc- 
tion is given at p. 342. In this picture the blue sky 



has been painted in, but the rest consists of a very 
fine drawing on the white gesso. Over this, accord- 
ing to Van Mander, a thin flesh-coloured priming, 
through which the drawing could be seen, was pass- 
ed. This priming was of oil. The introduction of 
canvas made of course the gesso priming unsuit- 
able, as it would be apt to crack off when the 
canvas was rolled up, and would be easily caused 
to peel off by exposure to damp from the back of 
the canvas. 

Nevertheless, if picture restorers are to be believed, 
such gesso primings were long used after the intro- 
duction of canvas, and were usually treated with a 
sufificientproportionof sizeto make them non-absor- 
bent. Such primings have been reintroduced again 
by the late Sir G. F. Watts. They give the advan- 
tage of a purewhite background to the picture, which 
is unaffected by time and age, but have obvious dis- 
advantages for a climate like ours. From the 
accounts left of the methods of priming adopted in 
the sixteenth century, it is evident that there was no 
consistent plan. 

To deal first with the statements made by Vasari 
in his technical introduction to the Lives of the 
Artists, we find the following, which has been parti- 
ally quoted already : — 



" How to prime the panel or canvas 
" I must now explain how to set about the work. 
When the artist wishes to begin, that is, after he 
has laid the gesso on the panels or framed canvases 
and smoothed it, he spreads over this, with a sponge, 
four or five coats of the smoothest size, and pro- 
ceeds to grind the colours with walnut or linseed 
oil, though walnut oil is better, because it yellows 
less with time. When they are ground with these 
oils, which is their tempera (medium), nothing else 
is needed, so far as the colours are concerned, but 
to lay them on with a brush. But first there must 
be made a composition of pigments which possess 
seccative qualities, as white lead, driers, and earth 
such as is used for bells, all thoroughly well mixed 
together and of one tint, and when the size is dry 
this must be plastered over the panel and then beaten 
with the palm of the hand, so that it becomes evenly 
united and spread all over, and this many call the 
' imprimatura ' (priming). " 

This translation is quoted from the edition of 
Vasari on Technique, by Louisa S. Maclehose, ed- 
ited by Professor Baldwin Brown. It will be noted 
here that the gesso ground on panel or canvas is 
rendered non-absorbent by means of size. On this 
is spread a priming. 



Then follows another receipt for preparing canvas 
alone, which is as follows : — 

" Painting on canvas 

"In order to be able to convey pictures from one 
place to another, men have invented the convenient 
method of painting on canvas, which is of little 
weight, and when rolled up is easy to transport. 
Unless these canvases intended for oil-painting are 
to remain stationary, theyarenotcoveredwith gesso, 
which would interfere with their flexibility, seeing 
that the gesso would crack if they were rolled up. 
A paste, however, is made of flour and walnut oil, 
with two or three measures of white lead put into it, 
and after the canvas has been covered from one side 
to the other with three or four coats of smooth size, 
this paste is spread on by means of a knife, and all 
the holes come to be filled up by the hand of the 
artist. That done, he gives it one or two more coats 
of soft size, and then the composition of priming. In 
order to paint on it afterwards he follows the same 
method as has been described above for the other 

This receipt is curiously complicated, with thefirst 
treatment with white lead, oil, and starch followed 
up by size, and then a final white lead priming. 



There is some doubt as to the nature of the " earth 
for bells " referred to. 

It is impossible to say from this account whether 
the oil priming was dark in colour. It contained an 
unknown amount of white lead, and of "the earth 
used for bells " (" terre de campani "). This mould- 
ing clay or earth may have been of the nature of 
a white china clay. 

Giovanni Battista Armenini was born in Faenza 
about 1530, and was trained as a painter, but ulti- 
mately became a monk. In 1586 his treatise, De' 
veri Precetti della Pittura, was published. He 
states that before sizing, the holes in the canvas 
can be filled up with flour paste and one-third 
white lead, and that the canvas should be sized both 
back and front. This is apparently, therefore, differ- 
ent from Vasari's statement, though it looks sus- 
piciously like the same receipt incorrectly described 
either by the one author or the other. The priming 
is to be composed of white lead, giallorino, terra 
de campani, or of verdigris, white lead, and umber. 
The first receipt is evidently the same as Vasari's. 
The additions of verdigris and umber in the second 
receipt are as driers, and the amount added may 
have been very small, so as merely to tint the white. 
He himself advises a priming of a light flesh or flame 



colour, which he brings about by the addition of 
varnish. He states that pictures with dark grounds 
ultimately darken, and that the oil in the ground 
darkens and sullies the colours, and therefore those 
who wished to prevent change made their grounds 
of white lead with one-sixth part varnish and a little 

With these receipts may be compared those given 
by De Mayerne : — 

"After spreading your canvas on a frame, give 
it some glue or scrap of leather of size. . . . When 
the glue is dry, prime quite lightly with brown-red 
or dark English-red. Leave to dry; smooth with 
pumice stone. Then prime with a second and last 
layer with white lead, carefully chosen charcoal, 
small coals, and a little umber, that it may dry more 
quickly. A third layer may be given, but two are 

This would doubtless produce a grey priming. 
It is evident from the introduction of moulding clay 
by Vasari, and the use of a red-ochre clay by Wallon, 
who supplied this receipt, that there was some fear 
of a pure white lead priming, at any rate in direct 
contact with the size. 

Abraham Latombd of Amsterdam supplies this 
receipt : — 



" Canvases must first be glued with calf- or goat- 
skin glue : the whole artifice consists in this. For if 
the glue is too strong the canvas easily splits and 
tears. After putting the glue on the canvas, lay it 
while still damp on marble, flatten with the rubber 
all joins and knots; then let it dry. Then prime 
with white lead and a little umber. One priming 
is sufficient, but if you give two layers the canvas 
will be more even. In painting landscapes let your 
priming be very light in colour." 

De Mayerne comments on this that he found the 
colour separated from the canvas in a picture by this 
artist which had been hanging on a damp wall. He 
therefore objects to size and also to umber. 

I n another part of the MS., which contains the re- 
ceipt of "the little painter of M. de St Jehan," after 
sizing we are directed to prime with bole, ^ lb., and 
umber, 2 oz. ; grind with oil. When dry, prime with 
I lb. white lead to i oz. umber. This would give a 
light grey priming. 

It is evident from all these receipts that the canvas 
was first prepared with size ; that sometimes the 
holes were filled up with flour paste and white lead, 
or flour, white lead, and oil (some obscurity here) ; 
that the priming was white lead with a drier like 
umber, and sometimes varnish, either mixed with 



a clay-like substance (Vasari, Armenini), or under- 
laid with a priming of a clay-like substance (bole, 
De Mayerne) ; that the priming was white, light 
grey, or brightly tinted, of a flame-colour; that 
Armenini regarded the white as of great import- 
ance. It also seems that white lead and oil alone 
in direct contact with the sized canvas was not con- 
sidered safe. Some modern receipts consist of mix- 
tures of white lead and china clay, probably a very 
sound practice. 

In later times darker and darker grounds were 
used, so that we have a transition from the pure 
white gesso ground on panel of Van Eyck to dark 
grounds on canvas. How far the colour of the 
ground ultimately affects the brilliancy of the picture 
must, I think, still be regarded as an open question, 
though I am disposed to favour the view that it is 
of importance — that, in fact, the translucency of a 
painted surface gradually increases, and therefore it 
isaswell to havenothing below white but white,while 
in the shadows, as the oil darkens, the increased 
translucency will tend to correct this, because of the 
white panel below. The whole matter requires,how- 
ever, careful testing by experiment. To look for a 
moment at some recent pictures : in spite of the ruin 
caused by asphaltum, the high lights in Wilkie's pic- 



tures and bright colouring are remarkably fresh and 
brilliant, at any rate in his earlier works, most of 
which are painted on a white panel. His best un- 
finishedpicture,forinstance,inthe Scottish National 
Gallery, is a large panel with a beautiful white sur- 
face, on which the whole scheme has been sketched. 
On this a few heads are already painted in, and are 
completely finished, and as fresh and brilliant as 
when first executed, and are presumably free from 
the asphaltum with which he ruined most of his work. 
The mastic varnish he used so freely as a medium 
along with oil has in many cases resulted in fine 
square cracking, but seems to have done no other 
harm. The Pre-Raphaelite Brethren were also in 
favour of white grounds (Mr Holman Hunt's Pre- 
Raphaelite Brotherhood), and their pictures, to be 
again referred to, are in splendid preservation. 

Having now got a clear conception of the materi- 
als used by painters in the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries, the question recurs whether the earlier 
" oil " pictures by Van Eyck and his followers were 
not really painted in a somewhat different medium, 
although the evidence from MSS. does not support 
this view. We have already demonstrated by means 
of experiments, in the first place, that spirit varnishes 
are brittle and much less durable when subjected to 



mechanical injury than varnishes made with oil, and 
that of those oil varnishes the most durable are those 
made with the hardest resins, while oil varnishes 
made with mastic or with the resin of the pine, or 
probably even with sandarac, are not nearly so tough 
and hard as those from copal and possibly the genu- 
ine amber varnish. We have further demonstrated 
that it is a mistake to suppose that oil, whether raw, 
boiled, or specially thickened, is not permeable to 
moisture, and that oil varnishes are subject to the 
same defect ; while the only varnishes which really 
exclude moisture, and so protect the pigments from 
change, are either spirit varnishes, or the balsams 
produced direct from the tree. We are thus on the 
horns of a dilemma, because if we wish to paint a 
picture with fugitive pigments, we should have to 
use as a medium some such material as Canada 
balsam or mastic dissolved in turpentine, such a 
picture being very easily injured mechanically, the 
brittle surface cracking away, though, on the other 
hand, there is no reason to suppose that it would not 
resist for a long time a chemical change. In this 
matter tests out of doors are probably quite unsatis- 
factory, asmost varnishes are subjected to conditions 
which are very different from those within a building, 
and it is at any rate very probable that a pure resin 



is in itself very durable, and would remain for hun- 
dreds of years without change. This, in fact, is fairly 
well proved by the balsam varnishes found upon the 
coffins of the XlXth dynasty. But such a picture 
would be so fragile that even if painted on panel it 
could not be trusted to stand for any great length 
of time. 

On the other hand, if we wish to prepare the 
picture which would have the surface which would 
stand best against mechanical injury, we should 
make use of a varnish from the hardest resins, dis- 
solved in oil, such as copal or kauri. In doing this 
we should have thrown away the protective value 
of the varnish for the pigment beneath ; and as the 
harder the resin, the larger the amount of oil required 
to keep it, so the further we depart from the soft 
resins, the less will the varnish protect the pigments 

This dilemma was solved by the older coach- 
painters by laying in the colours, for, let us say, 
a crest or coat-of-arms painted on the coach, 
with a large quantity of turpentine, so that the 
colours dried dead upon the surface ; these colours 
were then protected by means of a spirit varnish 
which was laid on and rubbed down more than 
once, and then over this spirit varnish was laid an 



oil copal varnish, in order to protect the brittle 
spirit varnish beneath. When it is remembered 
that the coloured coat-of-arms on a coach is con- 
stantly exposed out of doors to sun and air and 
all kinds of ill-usage, it is remarkable how well it 
lasts. Few pictures could stand long such severe 

It is therefore possible that the earlier oil-painters 
understood this, and made use of some such complex 
process, and I have myself suggested this among 
other possible explanations. If, for instance, we took 
a wooden panel, and, having coated it with gesso, 
proceeded to paint upon it in tempera our solid 
colouring, and then laid on our transparent colours 
ground in spirit varnish, and finally, when the pic- 
ture was dry, varnished it with a hard copal carriage 
varnish, we should certainly produce a work which 
in some ways would be very permanent. 

When I first suggested the idea to Mrs Herring- 
ham, she made the objection that the hard oil varnish 
on the top would necessarily yellow with time, and 
that the clearness of the whites in Van Eyck's pic- 
tures made it highly improbable that such a pro- 
cess had been used, and this objection is, I think, a 
sound one. 

A certain amount of further light, however, is 



thrown upon the matter by an inquiry into the mag- 
nificent greens which are to be found in Van Eyck's 
draperies. We have already considered the pigments 
which were available at his time, and if the attempt 
is made to imitate one of his greens by means of a 
mixture of the known blues and yellows of his time, 
it will be found quite impossible ; in fact, there is only 
one green that I know of which was known at his time, 
and which he could have used, and that is verdigris. 
Verdigris, when ground in oil, is a comparatively 
insignificant pigment, and the only way to get the 
full splendour out of this pigment is to dissolve it in a 
spirit varnish. If, for instance, we boil up verdigris 
with Canada balsam or Venice turpentine, or any 
other of these liquid pine balsams, it dissolves and 
forms perhaps the most beautiful transparent green 
which can be in any artificial way produced. Such 
a receipt for preparing green is given by De Mayerne, 
as we have already seen. 

It is also to be noted that verdigris is supposed 
to turn black in oil, and it seems really to deserve 
this reputation. Professor Church, in his book on 
pigments, for instance, states that verdigris turns 
black in oil. 

I prepared some of De Mayerne's green, and 
Professor Baldwin Brown compared it, when mixed 

369 24 


with orpiment and yellow ochre, with the greens in 
the Van Eyck at Ghent, and his opinion was that it 
matched them fairly well, though they were even 
brighter than my preparation. We may therefore at 
once put aside the possibility of these greens of Van 
Eyck's being composed of mixtures of the blues and 
yellows of his time. 

This compels us to the conclusion that, in so far as 
his greens were concerned, he must have dissolved 
verdigris in Venice turpentine or some similar bal- 
sam, and used it upon the picture. 

In the light of these experimental facts, if we were 
trying to-day to devise a process for painting a pic- 
ture which should be of the greatest permanence 
with fugitive pigments and without any reference to 
such technical difficulties as might be involved in 
using the medium, or doing all that a modern artist 
requires for his method of painting, I think it is evi- 
dent that we should have to adopt a compromise, 
and should have to aim at a medium which, while 
it contained a large proportion of resin, so as to 
preserve the pigments prepared with it, did not 
contain so large a proportion as to make it too 
easily injured mechanically. Such a medium has 
been recently experimented with by the Hon. 
Neville Lytton, and was suggested to him origin- 



ally, I believe, by Mrs Herringham,^ and consists 
of two parts of Canada balsam to one part of mastic 
varnish, and one part of an amber varnish which 
would consist probably, of course, of oil. With this 
medium emulsified with water he finds it possible 
to paint, but has not, however, actually ground his 
colours in this medium, but mixed it with the ordi- 
nary oil colours. 

I have myself ground colours in this medium, 
and have found that when dry it forms a suffi- 
ciently invulnerable coat against injurious gases 
and moisture. White lead, for instance, ground 
in this medium, and then protected by a thin var- 
nish of it on the top, remains white when plunged 
into sulphuretted hydrogen gas, while, when ground 
in oil, it is immediately blackened. We have there- 
fore in this medium a compromise which may be 
regarded as in the direction of what we require. 
On the one hand, the resins used are soft, and there- 
fore such a medium would not test very high upon 
the varnish-testing machine, but at the same time 
it might be quite tough and hard enough to stand 
the conditions to which the picture is usually ex- 

' Mrs Herringham writes me that she obtained the receipt from 
an old picture restorer, and has used the medium mixed with dry 
pigment and a little drying oil, or even, she believes, without oil 
and finds it lends itself to a Van Eyck style of brush work. 


posed. On the other hand, it would protect the pig- 
ments to a great extent, if not so completely as a 
pure balsam, from chemical action. 

In the receipts for varnishes which have been 
quoted, it will be noted that with the occasional ex- 
ception oftwo receipts, apparently for amber varnish, 
the proportions of resin to oil are very high ; while in 
the early receipts of the seventeenth century, oil dis- 
appears as a constituent altogether, and a diluting 
medium like turpentine or petroleum is found in- 
stead, so that we may say that the character of 
ancient varnishes was to have a very high percent- 
age of resinous matter as compared with oil, and to 
utilise for this purpose the softer resins. This char- 
acteristic prevails in the French varnishes to-day. 

I have already pointed out that it is highly improb- 
able that amber varnish was ever seriously used in 
painting. It is dark ; it is a bad drier, and it runs on 
the picture ; it has, in fact, all the worst faults that 
a painter's varnish could have, and it is also highly 
probable that the ordinary amber varnish bought 
from the shops was not made from amber at all. 

I think that there is this to be said in favour of 
Eastlake's theory, that, while the evidence in favour 
of the use of varnishes in painting collected by him 
is of the thinnest, yet that he was more or less on 



the right lines, but owing to his wish to use hard 
resin, if possible, he directs the attention of the 
reader the wrong way, because the harder the resin, 
the larger proportion of oil and the less the chemical 
protective value of the medium. 

We have to search in the other direction, as the 
earlier habits of oil-painting consisted in using a 
very large proportion of such soft resinous material 
as Venice turpentine, and resins such as mastic and 
sandarac, rather than utilising a larger proportion of 
oil with the harder resins. It is quite easy to under- 
stand how such a method might gradually get modi- 
fied almost unconsciously by the artist. The pictures 
of the time of Van Eyck are painted with a minute 
accuracy and exactness which require certainly a 
medium which will lie where the brush has placed it, 
but does not necessitate great freedom of working, or 
the working of one colour into another being carried 
out.^ As the use of oil mediums became morefamiliar, 
and as their possibilities were realised, it would be 
found convenient to diminish more and more the 
addition of resinous material, and to approach more 
and more nearly to the pure oil. Yet, at a time when 
the chemistry of these things was not understood, 

■ Another argument in favour of this view is the curious raised 
surface of the dark portions in the early ' oil ' pictures. 



such changes would be made without realising their 
full significance, so that a writer of the sixteenth 
century who had already got familiar with the idea 
of a pure oil medium would naturally ascribe such a 
medium to the earlier painters, although, it has al- 
ready been pointed out that Vasari seems to have 
had some doubts, from his cautiously ambiguous 
statement. 1 1 is evident that, up to the introduction of 
oil-painting, the tradition of hundreds of years, if not 
still longer periods, lay behind painting in tempera 
and every part of the process had been thoroughly 
worked out and understood ; but from the introduc- 
tion of 'oil ' at the beginning of the fifteenth century, 
we seem to see the beginning of a breaking away 
from tradition ; while, when wecometothesixteenth- 
century writers, it is already evident that rules have 
disappeared, whether we consider their accounts of 
pigments, of mediums, or of the preparation of the 
ground on which the painting is to be done. The 
many experiments tried by Leonardo da Vinci and 
the information in the De Mayerne MS. may be 
taken as a further proof of this ; while, by the time 
we come to the later seventeenth century, pictures 
are becoming less and less durable and are suffer- 
ing more from changes due to time. The intro- 
duction of oil-painting was like the Reformation. 



It broke away from tradition and left each painter 
more or less free to follow his own devices. We 
must therefore not be surprised if it is difficult to get 
accurate information as to earlier methods in the 
breaking up of this traditional school. 

The further question remains how far the Van 
Eycks are really to be regarded as tempera pictures. 
Ifwe believe the solid painting to be done in tempera 
and the pigments to be glazed in oil or varnish on 
the top, we have to explain the fact that these glazed 
pigments have not scaled off. It has already been 
noted that the tempera pictures of the Italian school 
were varnished, and that this varnish is in most cases 
peeling off and disappearing, leaving the picture be- 
neath uninjured. We should therefore have expect- 
ed something of the same kind to happen with the 
Van Eycks. The only answer to this is, I think, 
that to a certain extent an emulsion was made use of, 
at any rate in some stage of the painting. The ex- 
periments that I have made myself with an emul- 
sion of Canada balsam and white of egg prove that 
this is a medium which works freely under the brush, 
and has none of the stickiness which the highly 
resinous medium would otherwise have; while, if the 
amount of egg introduced is not too great, the final 
surface is hard and transparent — a result which I 



certainly did not expect. There would be no diffi- 
culty with this medium in laying on firm touches 
with the brush, which would remain in position. 
On the other hand, it dries, of course, much more 
quickly than an oil medium alone would do. The 
experiments made by Herr Berger on such emul- 
sions may here be considered. It is unfortunate 
that, in his anxiety to prove that such mediums 
were used by Van Eyck, he presses unduly the 
meaning of various quotations ; but if allowance 
is made for this, his experiments on these emul- 
sions will be found of considerable interest, and 
worthy of study. It has already been noted that 
white of egg emulsifies a Canada balsam medium, 
thus making it easy to manage, and therefore it 
is quite possible that the difficulty of using a sticky, 
resinous medium was overcome by emulsifying it 
with white of egg. If this was done, the earlier 
part of the picture might be painted in pure egg, the 
emulsified medium used above this, and possibly 
finished with pure varnish. In this way the danger 
of the scaling off of the varnish from the tempera 
beneath would be removed, as each stage of the 
picture would be firmly attached to the next. 

There are, however, other points to be considered 
when we are discussing the relative merits of a highly 



resinous medium with pure oil. I have recently ex- 
amined very carefully some surfaces painted by me 
some fifteen years ago, of white lead and zinc white 
mixed with oil, and with oil and copal varnish, and 
with oil, copal varnish, and turpentine. The results 
of this examination were to show that in the case 
of white lead the tone had fallen very consider- 
ably, owing, evidently, to chemical action upon the 
white lead itself In the case of the zinc white, the 
painting, which consisted of oil and copal varnish, 
had perfectly kept its colour, after being washed with 
a sponge and a little water, while the zinc white, 
ground with oil, without copal varnish, had very 
much lowered in tone. To the eye there seemed to 
be a general greyness upon the surface ; but when 
examined under the microscope, it was evident at 
once that this lowering in tone was simply due to 
dirt, for the whole surface of the oil was micro- 
scopically rough, and the dirt collected in the little 
microscopic hollows, and apparently had become at- 
tached to the oil itself, so that no ordinary washing 
could remove it, the only possible method of clean- 
ing being the use of an alkali, which will clean off 
the top skin of oil as well. On the other hand, the 
surface painted with oil and copal varnish, although 
the roughest brush-work had been used, was, when 



examined under the microscope, smooth and glossy, 
and provided no refuge for dust and dirt. It has not 
been sufficiently realised that the lowering in tone of 
oil pictures is largely due to the collection of dust 
on the porous surface of the oil, and the attachment 
of this dust firmly to the oil surface. The fact that 
the introduction of a varnish like copal varnish into 
the oil prevents this from happening is, I think, of 
the utmost significance. We have here, therefore, 
another argument in favour of a highly resinous 
vehicle. It is difficult to resist the conclusion, when 
we consider the surface appearance of the early oil 
pictures and their condition of preservation, and 
the brilliant greens which are untouched by time 
(the probable nature of which I have already de- 
scribed), that the medium used by them was a 
highly resinous one, though it further involved 
use of the softer resins; and that probably, the im- 
portance of this highly resinous medium not being 
realised, it was gradually allowed to be diminished 
more and more, and at last finally was only added by 
certain artists, or to certain pigments, without any 
particular reason, the varnishing of a picture being 
taken to replace the use of a resin in the oil. Such 
varnishes were, necessarily, insufficient to protect 
the pigments from the action of moisture or injurious 



gases, and if prepared, as described by the i6th- and 
17th-century artists, would quickly perish and leave 
the surface of the picture beneath exposed to the dirt. 

This is not the place to discuss the condition of 
modern pictures, or the methods of painting adopted 
by modern artists, but one or two remarks on the 
subject may be allowed. 

The difficulty is to obtain a medium which is 
sufficiently durable in itself and will sufficiently 
protect the pictures, and yet allow the free handling 
required by the modern artist, and painting over 
and painting in. 

All evidence is in favour of the importance of start- 
ing from a pure white and working up to dark, of 
painting directly and finally with as few over-paint- 
ings as possible, and using a vehicle with at any rate 
a considerable percentage of a hard resin in it. Such 
a medium would unfortunately be rejected by the 
artist of to-day, in most cases, as unfit for his work, 
and he would also in most cases object to painting 
on a white ground and putting each touch of pig- 
ment finally in place. We are not discussing here, 
we must remember, the aesthetic aim of modern art, 
or the technical conditions necessary to produce a 
Corot, but simply the problem of producing a good 
painting job. 



We have seen that Wilkie painted directly and 
finally on a white panel, and that in spite of his 
introducing varnish in the worst way — that is, 
mixing a spirit varnish with the oil on the palette, 
and using asphaltum— his pictures have benefited 
in certain respects. 

Another problem which troubles the modern 
artist is the occasional cracking of his pictures. 

The Van Eycks are covered with very fine cracks 
which do not matter, and many of the later oil- 
paintings have cracked badly and had the cracks 
plastered up by the restorer (as, for instance, 
Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne in the National 
Gallery), but many have remained in very perfect 
condition. The bad effects of asphaltum, which de- 
stroyed so many early Victorian pictures, is also 
thoroughly recognised. 

But there still remains the fact that many modern 
pictures crack badly though no such substance has 
been used. I have made many experiments without 
coming to a final conclusion. I have, for instance, 
accurately measured the contraction and expansion 
of canvas under changes of moisture in the air, and 
find it very considerable. These movements are 
bound ultimately to crack all oil-pictures, but the 
cracks may not be so marked as to spoil the pic- 





tures. I have also had the opportunity of examin- 
ing many modern cracked pictures, and have ob- 
served both the appearance of the surface and of a 
section through the crack under the microscope. 

The accompanying illustrations are microphoto- 
graphs of such a surface and section. 

It will be noted that the crack is not V-shaped, 
but is a canal with straight sides revealing the 
ground, underneath which is in no way disturbed. 
It is difficult to believe that this could be caused by 
a shrinking of the upper painting when once it was 
dry, as such a shrinking would either tear or stretch 
the priming, and it seems more probable that it is 
due to an expansion of the under layers due to 
chemical changes going on in the not thoroughly 
dry oil. There is good evidence to suppose that the 
sixteenth- and seventeenth-century practice was to 
give the priming and each subsequent coat of paint 
plenty of time to dry, to scrape or rub down the 
surface, and to expose it to the sun. 

Probably, therefore, hasty painting on a priming 
not thoroughly dry, or over painting which, while 
hard and therefore not mixing with the new paint, 
is not really dry, are the principal causes of this 

But the most striking pictures of modern times, 


from this point of view of producing a permanent 
job, are the early " Pre-Raphaelite " pictures, by 
Millais and Holman Hunt. These pictures give 
every indication of lasting for hundreds of years 
without change. 

On page 226 of Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre- 
Raphaelite Brotherhood, Mr Holman Hunt says:— 
"The process may be described thus : Select a pre- 
pared ground originally for its brightness, and 
renovate if necessary with fresh white when first 
it comes into the studio, white to be mixed with a 
very little amber or copal varnish. Let this last 
coat become of a thoroughly stone-like hardness." 
(It will be remembered that Armenini introduces 
varnish into the priming. Most modern pictures 
probably crack because the priming or underpaint- 
ing has not thoroughly finished hardening, whether 
put on by the artist's colourman or by the artist.) 
" Upon this surface complete with exactness the out- 
line of the part in hand. On the morning for the 
painting, with fresh white (from which all super- 
fluous oil has been extracted by means of absorbent 
paper, and to which again a small drop of varnish 
has been added) spread a further coat very evenly 
with a palette knife over the part for the day's 
work, of such consistency that the drawing should 



faintly shine through. In some cases the thickened 
white may be applied to the pieces needing brilliancy 
with a brush by the aid of rectified spirits. (See 
Van Mander's account of Van Eyck's methods.) 
Over this wet ground the colours (transparent and 
semi-transparent) should be laid with light sable 
brushes, and the touches must be made so tenderly 
that the ground below shall not be worked up, yet 
so far enticed to blend with the superimposed tints 
as to correct the qualities of thinness and staininess 
which over a dry ground transparent colours used 
would inevitably exhibit. Painting of this kind 
cannot be retouched, except with an entire loss of 

Again, on page 324 of the second volume, conversation with Holman Hunt, says: — 
"Why, my picture of Lorenzo and Isabella is as 
pure and clear as any German work. You say we 
happened to be very lucky in our plan of painting 
in one coat on an absolutely white ground and 
With copal varnish." (The italics are mine.) He 
then goes on to the fortunate fact that his pigments 
were prepared by Field. 

From these two accounts we get a complete pic- 
ture of this method of painting : a white ground, a 
single painting on it, and the introduction of copal. 



The ingenuity of the process lies in the fact that by 
painting with oil on copal you get rid of the trouble 
of a sticky copal medium, and yet work it in suffi- 
ciently to help in hardening and preserving the sur- 
face. Whether such methods can be used by the 
painter of to-day I do not know — that he is not 
thoroughly enough trained in the technical handling 
of his medium I sometimes suspect. Each school of 
painters and their admirers have their own conven- 
tion for interpreting nature, and claim to be true to 
nature, and regard users of other conventions as 
swindlers, for whom hanging is too good. We are 
here discussing good, durable, honest painting jobs 
which will last uninjured for hundreds of years, if pro- 
perly looked after, and among these must be placed 
the early pictures of the P. R. B. The slowness with 
which those pictures were necessarily painted, and 
the fact that so many were largely painted out of 
doors, would all help to make them permanent. 

In conclusion, it may be asked of the author of 
this book, how, if he were asked to paint a picture 
to last, let us say, five hundred years, he would set 
about it ? 

My reply is, that I should first select a thoroughly 
seasoned panel and coat it with gesso according to 
Cennino Cennini's directions, and protect the back 



edges with oil-paint. The gesso ground should 
ion-absorbent, but not shiny with size. On this 
el I would draw my picture, and then prime 
1 oil after the directions of Van Mander. Then, 
ing a selected group of pigments, principally 
th-colours, I would grind them in linseed oil con- 
lino- some copal oil varnish, about two of oil to 
of varnish. There would be no necessity to use 
; resins or balsams if the pigments were wisely 
;cted. I would not grind the pigments in oil and 
n use the varnish as a medium, as this produces 
qual mixing. (No modern artist would paint in 
h a medium, I may say in passing.) With these 
ments I would paint with the minute care of Van 
ck or one of the Pre- Raphaelite Brotherhood, 
ing each pigment where it was wanted, with no 
[itingout,and after the first painting I would give 
panel a week to dry in a bright light near a win- 
\i before the next painting. As far as possible I 
lid reduce the number of paintings laid over each 
er, and I would take care that where paint had 
)e laid over paint I was working from light to 
k and that the final surface of the picture was 
)oth and even, with the shine of the varnish 
iium. Such a picture might not please as a work 
.rt, but — it would last for ever. 

385 25 


The following list of books is intended to serve as a guide to 
further study and research : in addition to the works cited by 
myself, it comprises, and brings together into one view for con- 
venience of reference, most of the works cited by Sir Charles 
Eastlake, Mrs Merrifield, and Herr Berger, and it includes the 
leading authorities on the epoch of the Van Eycks and the 
question of the discovery and development of Oil Painting; but 
it makes no claim to consideration as a complete bibliography, 
more especially in regard to recent writings. It is arranged 
chronologically for the most important MSS. and books that are 
contemporary, or nearly so, with the periods covered by my 
book ; and alphabetically for later writers and writings. I owe 
the suggestion of its comprehensive purview to the General 
Editor, Mr S. H. F. Capenny ; to whom I am further indebted 
for good offices in the work of its compilation and revision.' 

Theophilus, c. 300 B.C. Ilepi At^tov, ed. Gk. and Eng., J. Hill, 

ViTRUVius, c. 40 B.C. De Architectura, ed. Valentin Rose, 

Plinius, c. 70 A.D. Historia Naturalis, ed. Carl Mayhoff, 

DioscoRiDES, c. 100 A.D. Materia Medica, ed. Kiihn, 1829-30. 



'>yri Graci, c. 300 to 400 a.d. (Tom. II., Papyr. 10), ed. 

C. Leemans, 1885. 
nus Amidenus, c. 5th to 6th century. De Re Medica. 
TLUS Aegineta, c. 6oo a.d. De Re Medica Libri Septem., 

Eng. trans., F. Adams, 1844-47. 
i many brief references in Plutarch and other classical 


:ca MS., c. 8th century. Cathedral Library, Lucca. Com- 
positiones ad tingenda musiva, pelles et alia, ed. Muratori, 
Antiquitates Italica, ii. (pp. 364-387), 1739. 

EOPHiLus, c. nth or 12th century. Schedula Diversarum 
Artium, ed. Lat. and Fr., L'Escalopier, 1843; Lat. and 
Eng., Hendrie, 1847; Lat. and Ger., Ilg, QueUenschriften, 
vii., 1874, new ed. 1888. Noticed in 1774 by Lessing 
in his " Vom Alter der Oelmalerei aus dem Theophilus 
Presbyter"; and in 1781 by Raspe, who published the 
first book from the Cambridge MS., now in the British 
Museum, in his Critical Essay on Oil-Painting. 

'ppa Clavicula, c. 12th century. Ed. Sir T. Phillipps, 
Bart., ArchcRologia, xxxii., 1847. 

'er Sacerdotum, c. 13th century. Ed. Lat., Berthelot, La 
chimie au Moyen Age, i., 1893. 

ACLius (Heraclius), c. 13th Century. De Coloribus et 
Artibus Romanorum, ed. Raspe, 1781; Lat. and Eng., 
Mrs Merrifield, Ancient Practice of Painting, 1849; Lat. 
and Ger., Ilg, Quellenschriften, iv., 1873. 

TRUS de St Audemar (Pierre de St Omer), c 13th 


century. De Coloribus Fadendis, ed. Lat. and Eng., 
Mrs Merrifield, 1849. 

Alcherius (or Archerius), Johannes, c. 14th century. De 
Coloribus Diversis Modis Tractatur; and De Diver sis 
Coloribus: ed. Lat. and Eng., Mrs Merrifield, 1849. 

Le BfeGUE, Jehan, c. 15th century. Tabula de Vocabulis 
Synonymis et Equivocis Colorum ; Experimenta de Colori- 
bus, etc. : ed. Lat. and Eng., Mrs Merrifield, 1849. 

Anonymus Bernensis, c. 12th to 14th century. Ed,, Lat. and 
Ger., Hagen, Quellenschriften, vii., 1874. 

Sloane MS. No. 1754, c. 14th century. Tractatus de Colori- 
bus Illuminatorum seu Pidorum, Lat. and Fr. British 

Account Rolls of Westminster and Ely Cathedrals, 13th and 
14th centuries. Some examples in Eastlake's Materials 
for a History of Oil-Painting (pp. 48 to 58), 1847. 

Naples MS., c. 14th century. Ed. Ital. and Fr., Salazaro, 
1877; Fr. trans., Le Coy de la Marche, "L'art 
d'enluminer,'' Gazette des Beaux Arts, 1885-86. 

Strassburg MS., 15th century. Formerly in Public Library, 
Strassburg (burnt, April 1870). Eastlake's MS. copy in 
National Gallery Library is published in Herr Berger's 
Beitrdge, iii., 1897. 

Cennini, Cennino, isth century. Three original MSB.; one 
in the Vatican ; two Florentine MSS. Many editions and 
translations have been published: ed. Tambroni, 1821; 
Eng. trans., Mrs Merrifield, 1844; Fr. trans., Mottez, 
1858; ed. Milanesi, 1859; Ger. trans., Ilg, Quellen- 
schriften, i., 1871, new ed. 1888; but the latest and best 
is by Mrs Herringham {The Book of the Art of Cennino 
Cennini, 1899). 



meneia of Mount Atkos, c. nth to 17th century. Com- 
piled by Dionysios; French translation, by Dr Paul 
Durand, in Didron's Iconographie chritienne, 1845 ; Ger 
trans., Schafer, 1855; Eng. trans, (of second part only), 
Stokes, 1886. 

ignese MS., 15th century. Segreti per Colori, ed. Italo- 
Lat. and Eng., Mrs Merrifield, 1849. 
:iana MS., i6th century. Secreti Diversi, ed. Ital. and 
Eng., Mrs Merrifield, 1849. 

lan MS., 17 th century. Ricetti per far ogni sorte di Colori^ 
ed. Ital. and Eng., Mrs Merrifield, 1849. 
lato MS., 17th century. Mode da tener nel Dipinger, ed. 
Ital., Baseggio, 1847 ; Ital. and Eng., Mrs Merrifield, 

sels MS., 17th century. Recueuil des essaies des merveilles 
de la peinture, de Pierre Lebrun, peintre, 1635, ed. Fr. 
and Eng., Mrs Merrifield, 1849. 

Mayerne MS., 17th century, Sloane MS. No. 2052, British 
Museum. Pictoria, Sculptoria, Tindoria et quce sub- 
alternarum artium spectantia, 1620, T. de Mayerne, ed. Fr. 
and Ger., Berger, Beitrage, iv., 1901. 

iRTi, Leone Battista, i 404-1 472. De Pictura {c. 1435). 
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Abacus, 86. 

Abney, 212, 213, 294. 

Acacia, 6, 17, 21. 

Account of Van Eyck's method 

by Van Mander, 342-343. 
jEthelwold, 247. 
Aetius, 65, 143, 327. 
Agrippa, 80. 
Aidan, 247. 
Albakim, 268. 
Albert! on fresco, 133-142. 
Alcherius, 144, 256, 259, 265, 315. 
Alcohol, 27, 29, 30, 70, 72, 317. 
Alcuin of York, 246. 
Alembic, 71. 
Ahzarine, 254. 
Alkanet, 58. 
Aloes, 203, 266, 324. 
Alphonso I., 339. 
Altamira, 2. 
Alum, 45, 254, 259, 260, 262, 

263, 265, 268, 314. 
Alumen, 45. 
Alumina, 25, 254, 265. 
Amatisto, 124, 127, 207, 215, 236. 
Amatorius, Plutarch, 68. 
Amber, 28, 284, 288, 291, 292, 

301, 307, 312, 313, 315. 
varnish, 285, 286, 289, 304, 

306, 313, 322, 323, 371, 


Antonello da Messina, 335, 339. 
Apelles, varnish of, 74-77. 
Appianum, 60. 
Aristides, 61. 
Armenian bole, 196, 202. 
Armenini, 280, 344, 349, 361, 

364, 382. 
Arsenic sulphide. See Orpi- 

Arte Vetraria, 272, 273. 
Arts and Crafts of Ancient 

Egypt, 18. 
Arzica, 208, 220. 
Aspertino, Amico, 135. 
Asphaltum, 73, 75, 324, 355, 356, 

357, 364- 

Assafetida, 263. 

Atramentum, 75. 

Auripetrum, 203. 

Auripigmentum, 219. 

Azures, artificial, 353. 

Azurite, 42, 208. 

Azzurro Oltramarino. See Ultra- 

Azzurro della Magna, 124, 208, 
di Smalto, 352. 

Bacam (Bakkam), 268. 
Baldovinetti, Alesso, 335. 
Baldwin Brown, 22, 359, 369. 



Balsam, 7, 30, 56, 287, 311, 317, 
323, 355, 366-7, 369- 

Canada, 31. 56, 309, 366, 369. 

pine. See Balsam. 
Bazzio, 117. 
Beeswax. See Wax. 
Beis, 354. 

Bell earth, 359, 361. 
Bell's medium, 297. 
Berenice, 284. 
Berger, Ernst, 22, 58, 92, 281, 

33S> 338, 349. 376. 
Bernensis, 144. 
Berthelot, 72. 
Biacca. See White lead. 
Bianco sangiovanni, 117, 119, 
122, 123, 124, 127, 130, 
13s, 208,224, 236, 241. 
Bilfrith, 247. 

Bitumen. See Asphaltum. 
Black, 124, 127, 137, 357. 

bone, 46. 

chalk, 3, 208, 234, 357. 

charcoal, 26, 27, 46, 362. 

coal, 357, 362. 

lamp, 46, 170, 208, 234, 251, 

mixed with glue, 66. 
peach kernels, 208. 
vine leaves, 46, 208, 234, 

Blue mixed with size, 227. 
cerulean, 354. 
cobalt, 19, 132, 137, 229, 236, 

copper, 19, 42, 43, 132, 146, 
227, 228, 229, 236, 353, 

Egyptian, 3, 5, 23, 24, 44, 95, 

132, 229, 352.. 
Prussian, 354. 

Blue, ultramarme, 47-48, 126, 
132, 145, 146, 171, 208, 

243, 352, 354, 357- 
preparation of, 229-234. 
Bole, 197, 198, 363. 
Bolognese MS., 220, 261. 
Bone ashes, 296, 333. 
Book of Kells, 246. 
Books of Hours, 249, 250. 
Borghini, Raffaello, 280, 344, 

349, 352. 
Botticelli, Sandro, 174, 276. 
Branchi, 226. 

Brasillium. See Brazil wood. 
Brazil wood, 147, 254, 259, 267, 

268, 269, 274, 276, 293, 

Breuil, Abbe Henri, 2. 
Brixillium, 259-260. See Brazil 

Broom, 266. 
Buckthorn, 266. 
Bucwood, 269. 
Butea, 267. 
Byzantine manuscripts, 246. 

Cadmium yellow, 137, 311. 

Caeruleum, 60, 67. 

Callitris quadrivalvis, 29, 284. 

Canada balsam. See Balsam, 
egg emulsion, 375, 376. 

Canvas, 338, 359-363. 

Carleton, Sir Dudley, 348. 

Carmine, 165, 168, 169, 306. 

Carthamus tinctoiius, 32. 

Cauterium, 51, 55. 

Cendre d'azur, 354, 357- 

Cennini Cennino, 11,81, 107, 123, 
130, 132, 135, 136, 148, 
172-177, 204, 251, 277, 
280, 332, 334, 340, 351. 



Cennini Cennino, on fresco, 113. 

on medium, egg, 242-244. 

on oil-painting, 238-241. 

on varnishing, 236-237. 

pigments in, 207, 234-236. 

preparation of panels, 187- 

preparation of ultramarine, 
Cerulean blue, 354. 
Ceruse. See White lead. 
Oestrum, 51. 
Cheese glue, 157, 158. 
Cherry tree gum, 165. 
Chevreul, 106, in, 123, 130. 
China clay, 364. 

Chinese vermilion. See Ver- 
milion, Chinese. 
Chromium green. See Green 

Church, Sir A. H., 213, 235, 304, 

Cimabue, 173, 335. 
Cinabrese, 117, 124, 126, 127, 

Cinnabar, 4, 5, 42, 112, 124, 161, 
170, 207, 209, 210, 275, 
Citron bark, 147. 
Cleopatra, 73. 
Coach painting, 367. 
Cobalt, 24, 353. 
blue. See Blue cobalt, 
green. See Green cobalt. 
Coccus ilicis, 269. 

lacca, 267. 
Cochineal, 45, 255, 263, 271. 

lakes, 274. 
Coire, 195. 

Copal, 28, 288, 289, 291, 301, 
varnish, 306, 377, 382 

Copper blues. See Blue copper. 

greens. See Green copper. 
Cornelius Jansen, 219. 
Cortez, 45, 271. 
Crimson lake, 25. 
Croton tinctorium, 170, 267. 
Curcuma, 266. 
Cyanos, 23. 

De Mayerne, 214, 219,266, 280- 
282, 308, 309, 312, 322, 
362-364, 369, 374. 

Didron, 108, 109, ni. 

Dioscorides, 36, 65, 327\ 

Distillation, 70-72. 

Donner, 52. 

Doublets, 325. 

Dragon's-blood, 46, 47, 203, 204, 

Driers, 283, 359. 

Duccio di Buoninsegna, 173. 

Dyes, 6, 24, 25, 44, 45, 253. 

Eastlake, 52, 174, 266, 298, 303- 
30S> 31S' 332, 345. 356, 
Egg medium, 7, 8, 9, 10, 21, 66- 
69, 78,81, 113, 125, 127, 
243, 329, 331-332, 368. 
shells, 265. 
Egyptian blue. See Blue, Egyp- 
green. See Green, Egyptian 
wax portraits, 53. 
yellow, 24. 
Elasippus, 61. 
Ely, old accounts, 331. 
Emerald green, 311. 
Emulsion of Canada balsam and 
egg, 375, 376. 


Encaustic, 49, 60, 80. 
Eraclius, 144, 255-257, 273, 329. 
Erechtheion, 80. 

Ficus, 267. 

Fig tree juice, 66, 125, 127, 242, 

243, 332- 
Fish glue, 107, 144, 170, 252. 
Flour paste, 360, 361, 363. 
Folium, 168, 169, 170, 252. 
Fornis, 161, 162. 
Fra Angelico, 148, 174. 

Filippo Lippi, 174. 
Fresco, Alberti on, 133-142. 

analysis of, 102. 

buon, 81, 82-84, 86. 

by Cennino Cennini, 113- 

Byzantine, 110. 

Egyptian, analysis of, 21, 22. 

experiments on, 93, 94. 

Greek, 40, 82. 

lime for, 114. 

modern practice, 136-138. 

Mount Athos, no, in. 

pigments for, 124. 

polishing of, 92. 

sand for, 1 14. 

Theophilus on, 112. 

use of glue, 91. 

Vasari on, 128-129. 
Frescoes, Knossos, 3, 83. 

Pompeian, 34-43. 95; 102, 103, 
106, III, 130. 
Frits. See Blue and green 

Gaddi, Agnolo, 119, 17 5, 176. 
Galbanum, 312. 
Gamboge, 309. 
Ganosis, 82, 98, loi. 
Garlic juice, 196, 227. 

Geber, 209. 
Gerlich, loi. 

Gesso, 26, 27, 28, 157, 158, 159, 
160, 184, 185, 186, 189, 
190, 191, 192, 193, 194, 
338, 358, 360, 368. 
Giallelino, 216. See Giallerino. 
Giallerino, 124, 127, 208, 216- 
218,361. See a/jtf Naples 
Gilding, 195, 197-199, 249, 250, 
See also Gold leaf, 
for manuscripts, 202. 
Giotto, 119, 173, 175, 335. 
Giuliano, 176. 
Glassa, 162, 291, 313-315 
Glasse aromatique, 315. 
Gloriat, 284, 316. 
Glue, 7, 21, 26, 28, 49, 66, 69, 
157, 159, 160, 166, 187-189, 
239, 253, 329, 332, 355, 
cheese, 157, 158. 
parchment, 196, 249, 252. 
Gluten, 161, 165, 328. 
Glycerine, 299. 
Gold, 17, 166. 
burnishing of, 200, 201, 249. 
leaf, 66, 163, 204, 221, 249, 331. 
mines, 17. 
paint, 249, 250. 
size, 196, 201. 
Gozzoli Benozzo, 174. 
Graffito, 51. 

Graines d' Avignon, 266. 
Grana, 263, 265, 270. See also 

Greek and Roman Methods of 

Painting, 84. 
Greek painting on marble, 82. 
pitch, 324. 
schools of painting, 38. 



Greek varnish, 70, 74, 75, 76. 

wall-painting, 84, 104. 
Green chromium, 133, 137, 236. 
cobalt, 137, 236. 
earth, 357. 
Egyptian, 23-25. 
salt, 167, 170. 

Spanish, 165, 167, 168, 170. 
See Verdigris. 
Greens of Van Eyck, 360. 
Guevara, 133. 

Gum arable, 7, 17, 21, 22, 66, 
251, 252, 253, 257, 261, 

benzoin, 318. 
cherry, 165, 170. 
lac, 324. See also lac. 
plum-tree, 171. 
Gypsum, 25, 26, 44, 159, 195, 

254, 259. 

Hasmatite, 19, 127, 207, 215. 
Haitier, Jehan, 324. 
Hawara, 32, 37, 52. 
Haydock, 352. 
Heaton, 83. 
Hellot, 270. 

Hempseed oil, 314, 316. 
Hermeneia, 108-111,317. 
Herringham, 174, 243, 332, 368, 

Holbein, 221, 251. 
Holman Hunt, 212, 365, 382. 
Honey, 45. 
Hoogstraten, 266. 

laia, 51. 

Ilex, 269. 

Illuminated Manuscripts in 
Classical and Medicsval 
Times, by Middleton, 249. 

Illuminators' guilds, 248. 
// Riposo, 344, 352. 
Indian ink, 251. 

red, 137. 
Indigo, 46, 60, 133, 243, 357. 
Infusorial earth, 45. 
Ink, 66, 170, ^51. 
Intonaco, 114, 138. 
Iris, sap of, 167. 
Italian Antiquities, by Mura- 

tori, 143. 
Ivory black, 235. 
Ivy juice, 257-258, 267, 277. 

Jaune de Naples, 216, 218. 
John, 24, 25, 44. 
Juniper resin, 284. 
Justmian, 81. 

Kv^KOJ, 32. 

Karabe, 291. 

Kauri, 28, 288, 289, 367. 

Kermes, 45, 147, 254, 270-272, 

Kimchi, 268. 

Knossos fresco, 3, 17, 83. 
, Kublai Khan, 210. 

Lac, 124, 267, 268, 277. 
Lacca di cimatura, 271. 
Uart de I'einture, 270. 
Lake crimson, 25. 

madder, 24-26, 148. 

yellow, 24, 44, 147, 221, 303, 

355, 357- 
Lapis amatisto, 200. 
lazuli, 47, 48, 132, 145, 171, 
Lazur, 113. 
Lead oxides, 43. 
protoxide, 216. 
soaps, 300. 



Lead sulphate, 226. 

Le Bfegue, 144, 145, 146, 172 
259, 266. 

Leonardo da Vinci, 352. 

Lethaby, 90. 

Lichen, 254. 

Light red, 137. 

Lime for fresco, 114. 
white, 130, 137. 

Lindisfarne Abbey, 247. 

Linen for panels, 189, 191, 194. 

Linseed oil, 18, 29, 30, 65, 135, 
160-162, 164-165, 171, 
201, 239-241, 285, 297, 
299. 304, 312-316, 318- 
319, 321, 324-325, 328- 
330, 331-333. 335-338, 
359, 366. 

Litharge, 214, 215, 296, 324. 

Litmus, 254. 

Lomazzo, 352, 356. 

Lucca manuscfipt, 107, 143-144, 
171, 209, 283, 312, 327. 

Lutecium Belgicum genuli, 216- 

Lytton, Hon. Neville, 370. 

Madder, 44, 147, 254-255, 273- 
274, 276. 

lakes. See Lake madder. 
Maestro Domenico, 340. 
Malachite, 42, 208. 
Maltechnik des altertums, 58. 
Mander, Van, 342, 343, 349, 358. 
Mander's account of Van Eyck's 

method, 342-343- 
Manganese borate, 297, 298. 

compounds of, 41, 144, 333. 
Manuscripts, gilding of, 202. 
Mappa Clavicula, 144. 
Marble dust, 88, 95, 102, 131. 

Greek painting on, 82. 

Marble, polishing of, 100, loi. 
Marco Polo, 210, 268. 
Marcus Graccus, 317. 
Marcucci, 356. 
Mardana MS., 317. 
Massicot, 217, 357. 
Mastic, 29, 74, 134, 141, 283- 
286, 292, 302, 307, 312, 
316, 318, 320-325, 366. 
Matthioli, 271. 
Medium, Bell's, 297. 

egg. See Egg medium, 
gum, gall from Thebes, 68. 

Egyptian, 21. 

Greek, 38, 63. 

size, 131,243. 
Mediums, properties of, 49. 

volatile, 74. 
Melian white, 60. 
Menesch, 273. 

Merrifield, 138, 144, 172, 195, 
203, 215-216, 226, 256, 

259 313, 329, 344, 356. 
Michael Angelo, 131-133. 
Middleton, 25, 186, 202, 249, 

270, 352. 
Millais, 382. 
Minium, 44, 124, 161, 165, 166, 

168, 170, 207, 214-215, 

Mistletoe juice, 65. 
Monaco, Prince of, 2. 
Morris, William, 45, 221, 271. 
Mount Athos, 108-123. 

fresco, 108-111. 
Mullers, prehistoric, 4. 
Muratori, 143. 
Murex, 6, 44, 45, 251, 254. 
Myrrh, 312. 

Naphtha. See Petroleum. 
Naples yellow, 127, 208, 218, 236. 



Neri, 272, 273. 
Nitrum, 57, 59. 
Nut oil, 316, 319, 323, 336. 

Ochre, 3, 17, 41, 86, 112, 115, 

Prussian, 357. 

red, 19, 23-24, 127, 207-208. 
yellow, 19, 23, 27, 127, 136- 

Oil, boiled, 296-298, 306. 
emulsion, 335. 
linseed. See Linseed oil. 
medium, introduction, 279- 

olive. See Olive oil. 
-painting after Van Eyck, 

343-35 1- 
Cennino Cennini on, 238- 

early history of, 327-334. 
pictures, cracks on, 381. 
darkening of, 377-380. 
poppy. See Poppy oil. 
walnut. See Walnut oil. 
Oleo di abezzo, 284, 292, 307- 

309, 310, 319-322. 
Olive oil, 18, 74, 161. 
Orpiment, 42, 60, 124, 208, 219, 
220, 243, 293. 

Pacheco, 136. 

Paduan MS., 264, 268, 271, 272, 

274, 275, 308, 320, 356. 
Painter of M. de St. Jehan the 

Litde, 363. 
Palettes, prehistoric, 4. 
Palomino, 136. 
Panels, 157, 158, 184-185, 338, 

preparation of Cennmo 
Cennini, 187-201. 

Papyrus, 17, 26, 31. 32, 245- 

ash, 58. 
Paracelsus,' 323. 
Parchment shavings, 188. 

glue. See Glue, parchment. 
Persian berries, 147, 254 
Pesello, 335. 
Peter of St. Audemar, 144, 203 

256, 258, 273, 313, 330. 
Petrie, Flinders, 4, 18, 25, 32, 37, 

Petroleum, 29, 31, 70,72-73, 292, 

317-322, 347, 372. 
Pica greca, 284, 286, 287, 289, 

Pictures," Pre-Raphaelite," 382- 

Pietro Cavallini, 173. 
Pigments, ancient, 205-207. 

in Cennino Cennini, 207-236. 

for fresco, 124. 

Knossos, 3. 

Roman, 40-48. 

of sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries, 351-357- 
Pine balsam. See Balsam. 

silver, 292. 
Pisano, Niccolo, 173. 
Pistacia lentiscus, 2<). 
Plaster, Egyptian, 21. 

Greek, 82. 

Knossos, 3. 

Mount Athos, 108-109. 

of Paris, 195. 

polishing of, 94. 

Roman, 93. 
Pliny, contents table, 59. 

on distillation, 72. 

on e.%% medium, 67. 

on fresco. 87. 

on resins, 74. 

on varnishing, 75, 76, 77. 



Pliny on vermilion, 97. 

on wall-painting, 85. 

on wax for walls, 80. 

on wax-painting, 60, 61, 62. 

preparation of wax, 57. 
Plum-black, bark, 203, 314. 

-tree gum, 165. 
Plutarch, 68, loi. 
Pompeian frescoes, 34, 102, 106, 

Poplar wood, 187. 
Poppy oil, 65, 161. 
Pose, 112. 
Praxiteles, 61. 
Preparation of grounds, 357, 

" Pre-Raphaelite " pictures, 382- 

Primmg, 359-364. 
Procopius, 81. 
Protogenes, 67. 
Prussian blue, 354. 
Pterrotarpus draco, 216. 
Punic wax, 57-59. 
Purple, royal, Tyrian, 6, 44, 

Purpurissum, 60, 67. 
Puteoli, 23. 

Quartz, glazed, 5. 
Quellenschriften fiir Kunstge- 

schichte, 144. 
Quercitron bark, 254. 
Quicksilver, 5. 

Raphael, 235. 
Raspe, 256. 
Reade, Charles, 204. 
Realgar, 208, 220. 
Red, English, 362. 

Indian, 137. 

lakes, 147. 

Red lead, 5, 43-44, 170, 214, 251, 
276, 357- 

light, 137. 

ochre, 3. See Ochre, red. 

Venetian, 137. 
Remiel, 251. 
Resins in Pliny, 74. 
Reynolds, Sir Joshua, 309. 
Rhamnus catharticus, 266. 
Riffault, 356. 
Risalgallo, 208, 220. 
Rosato, 261. 
Rosin, 29, 284, 289, 307, 313, 

Rossetta, 119. 
Rubens, 266, 346-348, 350. 
Russell, 23-26, 212-213, 294. 

Saffron, 164, 203, 208, 220, 243, 

254, 266, 324. 
St Cuthbert, 247. 

Mark's library, Venice, 72. 

Medard, 55, 56, 106, in, 123, 

Salt, green. See Green salt. 
Sandal wood, 147. 
Sandarac, 29, 31, 283, 284-286, 

292, 307. 311, 3I3> 316, 

318, 324- 
Sandyx, 67. 
Sapan wood, 269. 
Saunders wood, 269. 
Shellac, 267. 

Siennas, raw, 41, 136, 137. 
Sil atticum, 255. 
Sinopia, 121, 124, 127, 208, 

Size. See Glue. 
Sloane MS., 144. 
Smalt, 132, 229, 347, 352, 353, 

Soap, 134, 13s. 142- 



Spanish green. See Green, 
leather, 203. 
Spiegelharz, 324. 
Spike oil, 317, 320, 324. 
Spirit varnish, 29. 
Sirass6ur£- MS., 144, 315, 333, 

337, 345. 349> 35°- 
Stucco lustro, 135. 
Succus, 113, 165. 
Symeon, 248. 

Tails of synonyms, 266. 

Taddeo Gaddi, 119, 175. 

Tambroni, 215. 

Tannin, 170. 

Tempera. See Egg medium, 9. 

Terebinth, 74. 

Terra de campani, 361. 

Terre verte, 41, n8, 119, 124, 

127, 137,222,356. 
Thebes Manuscript, 68. 
Theophilus on fresco, 1 12. 
on gold leaf, 163. 
on illuminating books, 165- 

on oil and varnish, 160-162. 
on panels, 157, 160. 
Theophrastus, 23, 24, 35, 40, 209. 
Tinfoil, 164, 202, 203. 
Titian, 380. 
Tragacanth, 129. 
Traquair, no. 
Travertine, 128, 135, 265. 
Turner's yellow, 217. 
Turpentine, 29, 31, 69-72, 283- 

284, 292, 301, 312, 317, 

320, 321-323, 347, 366- 

367, 372. 

Ultramarine. See Blue ultra- 

Umber, 137, 324, 356, 357, 361, 
362, 363. 

Van Dyck,2i9, 281,346,348,350. 
Eyck, durability of pictures 
by, 292-294. 
his probable medium, 365- 

Vasari's account of, 334- 
Eyck's greens, 369. 
Varnish, Chinese, 324. 
copal, 368. 
Egyptian, 28-31. 
Greek, 70-77. 
old receipts for, 313-326 
on priming, 382. 
saffron-tinted, 164. 
for tinfoil, 324. 
for violins, 204. 
yellow, 203. 
Varnishes, Old, general, dis- 
cussion of, 282-287. 
as protecting old pigments, 

testing hardness, 288-291. 
tests for moisture penetration, 
Varnishing, Pliny, "JT. 

Apelles, 77. 
Vasari on fresco, 128-129. 

on oil-painting, 338. 
Vasari's account of Van Eyck, 

Vellum, 167, 247. 
Veneda, 113. 
Venetian red, 137. Also see 

Ochres, red. 
Venice turpentine, 29, 31, 56, 
284, 307, 308-310, 313, 
320, 323, 325, 356, 369- 
370, 373- 



Verdaccio, 117. 
Verde azzurro, 208, 222. 
eterno. Also see'Vtidigns,22 2. 
terra. Also see Terre verte, 

118, 119, 124, 127, 208, 

222, 236. 
Verderame, 124, 208, 222. 
Verdigris, 5, 44, 168, 170, 201, 

208, 222-223, 252, 293, 

308,310-311, 325, 355, 

357, 361, 369- 
Vermilion, 42-44, 95, loi, 137, 
144, 170, 175, 209, 211- 
213, 251, 276 

Chinese, 210-211. 

protection of, 97- 
Vernice liquida, 240, 242, 332. 
Vernix, 313. 

Verrocchio, Andrea, 195. 
Verzino, 268. 
Vinegar, 5, 43, 44. 
Violets, 255, 257. 
Viridian, 133, 137. 
Vitruvius on fresco, 88-91. 

on vermilion, 97. 
Volpato, 344. 
Volteranno, 189. 

Wadi Maghara, 17. 

Nasb, 17. 
Wall-painting, Egyptian, 22. 

Greek, Roman, 79-84. 
Wallon, 362. 
Walnut oil, 18, 65, 161, 300-301, 

338, 359-360. 
Ward, J., on fresco painting, 136- 

Watts, Sir G. F., 358. 
Wax, 7, 20, 22, 30, 38, so, 51, 52- 
141, 144. 171- 
on marble, 100, loi, 104. 
portraits, Egyptian, 37, 53. 
preparation of, from Pliny, 57, 

Punic, 57-59. 
for walls, 80, 97-99. 
Weld, 44, 147, 221, 254, 266. 
Westminster old acccounts, 

Weyden, Van der, 276. 
White earths, 42, 45. 
lead, 5, 43, 60, 124, 126, 165, 
168, 170, 20I, 208, 215, 
224-226, 275, 300, 331, 
357, 359-360, 361-363, 
Whiting, 249. 
Wiegmann, 86. 
Wilkie, 364, 380. 
Willowwood, 187. 
Winckelmann, iii. 
Woad, 44, 46, 254. 
Wood ashes, 259, 264. 

Yellow cadmium. See Cadmium 
Egyptian, 24. 
lake. See Lake, yellow, 
ochre. See Ochre, yellow. 

Zafiferano, 208, 220. 
Zinc sulphate, 296, 332-337- 
white, 226. 



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